Food and Nutrition Service
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to end hunger and obesity through the administration of 15 federal nutrition assistance programs including WIC, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and school meals. SNAP helps over 40 million low-income people afford a nutritionally adequate diet; WIC provides nutritious food for about 7 million low-income women, infants, and children; and school breakfast and lunch programs provide free and reduced-price meals to over 20 million low-income children.
Using WIC food benefits
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves 6.2 million participants, including nearly 45% of all infants in the United States. WIC participants receive a range of health and nutritional support, including Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards or vouchers to purchase nutritious foods to supplement diets at authorized retail vendors. The WIC food packages are scientifically based and provide supplemental foods designed to address the specific nutritional needs of WIC participants. Food packages include foods from categories such as milk, whole grains, eggs, infant formula, and foods prescribed in quantity outlined in federal regulations.
WIC State agencies authorize WIC foods, including the brands and package sizes, following Federal WIC regulations. WIC State agencies consider various factors when determining which foods to authorize, such as price, product availability, and participant acceptance. Most participants transact their WIC benefits at a grocery store that has been authorized by their State agency. To do so, they go into the store, locate the foods included in the balance of their benefits, check out like any other customer, and pay using the WIC EBT card.
Why this service was designated
WIC serves 6.2 million participants, including nearly 45% of all infants in the United States. WIC benefits can currently only be used in person, presenting challenges to families with limited transportation. WIC households are 11% less likely to use a personal vehicle for grocery shopping than non-WIC households. In-person shopping can also present challenges to participants in remote or rural communities and has shown particular challenges during the pandemic. The requirement to redeem benefits in person has been consistently raised as a user pain point in research and usability testing sessions with WIC advocates and participants. Pursuing online ordering in WIC will ensure that WIC participants have access to a broader array of shopping options and are not left behind as the retail grocery industry continues to innovate. Additionally, online purchasing in the related Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has become increasingly available over the past several years, with 6% of all SNAP benefit transactions conducted online in December 2021. Online WIC transactions will enable a combined shopping experience for participants transacting SNAP and WIC benefits.
Prior to the first service designation exercise in 2022, HISPs were collecting data using methods unique to each agency, resulting in data that was not standardized. This previously-reported data was collected to increase visibility and awareness regarding customer experience through feedback data. Per A-11 guidance, service providers will collect feedback in a more standardized way.
Food and Nutrition Service
This HISP was newly designated for FY22 and will identify services for customer feedback reporting by Dec. 31st, 2021.