Child Nutrition Reauthorization
WIC program reforms are considered through a process known as Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Legislators group WIC with the school meals programs, summer feeding programs, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) for consideration of a broader legislative vehicle. Child Nutrition Reauthorization is within the jurisdiction of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization is not a guaranteed process. The last reauthorization occurred in 2010 with passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – which required that State WIC Agencies transition to e-WIC. WIC services have adapted in new and unexpected ways, and long-delayed reforms are exacerbating challenges in reaching all eligible individuals. WIC providers are acutely aware of the adverse effects on participation and program perceptions should COVID-related waivers, authorized under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, expire before permanent reforms are adopted. NWA urges Congress to advance a Child Nutrition Reauthorization in 2022 to assure that WIC providers can integrate lessons learned during the pandemic to build a new model of services to meet the next generation of WIC families. The National WIC Association recommends that a Child Nutrition Reauthorization process consider the following priority areas when evaluating WIC program reforms:
- Address gaps in nutrition assistance. WIC’s strong record of improved health outcomes could be more effectively leveraged to set children up for future life success. Congress should evaluate opportunities to expand and streamline eligibility – especially for postpartum women and 5-year-old children – to address the nation’s most pressing public health challenges.
- Streamline access to WIC services. After nearly two years of remote options, WIC providers have adapted services to meet the next generation of WIC parents – recording record increases in child participation. The federal statute – especially provisions related to certification appointments – must be revised to reflect this change in service delivery, sustaining remote options in the long-term while preserving WIC’s public health character.
- Strengthen WIC’s nutrition services. WIC providers have gone above and beyond to operate during COVID-19, but State Agencies still have limited resources to invest in WIC’s nutrition and breastfeeding services. Congress must pay more attention to the increasing challenge of growing and retaining a diverse credentialed workforce by incorporating promising solutions into CNR that target new investment and promote cross-program collaboration with Medicaid.
- Modernize benefit redemption. After SNAP scaled up online purchasing nationwide, WIC families were left with inequitable shopping options. Additional investment is needed to build online shopping platforms at retailers both large and small, and additional statutory flexibility is needed to empower innovations in both retail and farmers market settings.