Opportunity for Health

In-Person Benefit Reloading Requirements Decreased WIC Participation During the Pandemic

Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics Blog Post · August 20, 2021

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, provides nutritional support and nutrition education to food insecure children and families in poverty. WIC has proven health benefits for participating women and children, including lower rates of preterm birthdecreased food insecurity, and improved nutrition. However, prior to the pandemic, only about half of all eligible families received WIC benefits. One reason for these low participation rates are the administrative burdens that families face when enrolling in WIC and when accessing and redeeming WIC benefits.

This blog post discusses new evidence of administrative burdens in the WIC program, namely the requirement in-person visits to reload program benefits. It illustrates how these requirements reduced WIC participation during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of great economic insecurity, and provides detailed policy prescriptions to alleviating these burdens and ensuring better access for eligible families.