By Nadia Ramlagan
Public press service
Households benefiting from the special supplementary nutrition program for women, infants and children could start buying infant formula online, perhaps within months.
The federal government has said states can apply for grants to improve their programs for people receiving WIC benefits. WIC participants buy nearly half of the country’s infant formula, but so far have been unable to use their benefits to get it from online retailers.
Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy and early childhood programs at the Food Research and Action Center, said the government began testing online programs for WIC recipients last year.
“And this year, earlier, they’re saying they’re going to fund states to move forward with online ordering,” Henchy noted. “They invite them to apply for this funding, and it’s part of a larger effort to improve purchasing options for WIC customers.”
With the continued shortage of infant formula, she argued that better access is especially important for new parents in rural areas. Monthly WIC benefits are paid to low-income people who are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding or have children up to age five, to help ensure these families have access to nutritious food. .
More than 100,000 Kentucky households receive WIC benefits.
Henchy explained that before the national shortage, WIC attendees could only purchase one brand of formula. But the US Department of Agriculture lifted purchase restrictions and Henchy stressed the change would remain in effect.
“Now all of the Southeast states have expanded the types of formulas that WIC parents can buy, basically, with their benefits,” Henchy observed.
Henchy added that the WIC has been a lifeline for families at a time of unprecedented food inflation.
“Families have a guarantee on the amount of formula, they have a guarantee on the amount of cereal, juice and eggs,” Henchy pointed out. “They are guaranteed to get that as part of their benefits. And I think that’s really important, and people are counting on it.
The Biden administration has also said it will work with states to implement contingency plans to ensure households have access to formula and improve distribution of specialized formula for infants with issues. healthcare, in the event of a future supply chain disruption or emergency declaration.