The Future of WIC: EBT and Beyond

S. Blumenthal, E. Yang, H. England, J. Loyo, K. Horton, W. Willett, The Future of WIC: EBT and Beyond, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Volume 118, Issue 9, Supplement, 2018, Page A69, ISSN 2212-2672.


The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a $6 billion initiative, supports critical nutritional needs for 7.6 million mothers and children under the age of five who meet income eligibility guidelines and are determined to be at "nutritional risk". WIC participants face an additional challenge: an obesity epidemic co-existent with food insecurity in America. As more technology-savvy mothers in the Millennial Generation become eligible for WIC, the program must incorporate a "high tech, high touch" approach, delivering quality services in person and with 21st century technology. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that by October 1, 2020 all WIC agencies must transition from paper vouchers to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system for issuing participants’ food benefits. However, if the EBT card were combined with other technologies such as mobile apps and text messaging, this system has the potential to simplify applying for WIC, providing nutrition and child development interactive education, links to other health services, and reduce the 54% attrition rate of families from the program. In 2017, New America convened a Digital Health Summit in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health bringing together leading technology companies including Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook with public health experts, researchers, futurists, designers, policymakers, food retailers and private sector collaborators to innovate the transition from paper vouchers to EBT with other technologies, reimagining what is possible for the WIC program in the Information Age.

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