Benefits Data Trust is part of a $10M initiative to modernize WIC state agencies

The Philly nonprofit is collaborating with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and National WIC Association to spread data-sharing strategies.

By: Sarah Huffman

Originally published October 5, 2023 by

Center City-based Benefits Data Trust (BDT), a national-facing nonprofit that uses data to connect people with public benefits, will soon be helping more families across the country access WIC benefits.

BDT is part of a collaborative that was chosen for a $10 million initiative to modernize the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) state agencies by increasing data-driven strategies that connect people with those benefits.

Caiti Roth-Eisenberg, senior policy manager at BDT, told the organization started working with WIC benefits in 2018. This program provides nutrition, healthcare and education to low-income families through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.

“Leveraging data-sharing to connect WIC-eligible families to healthier lives through WIC delivers on President Biden’s vision of using technology to modernize and implement government services that are simple and responsive for all people,” said Stacy Dean, the USDA’s deputy under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, in a written statement.

BDT will be working with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health — home to one of the oldest WIC clinics in the country — and the National WIC Association to give out grants and other support to WIC state agencies. These state agencies include 50 state health departments, 33 Indian tribal organizations, the District of Columbia and five territories.

BDT’s work is focused on data matching and targeted outreach to identify people who would be eligible for public benefits and reaching out to them to let them know that they qualify. Roth-Eisenberg said BDT has been doing this work specifically for WIC benefits for a few years now, specifically identifying families who are already enrolled in Medicaid or SNAP and letting them know they also qualify for WIC.

The new program is focused on providing grants and technical assistance to help state agencies set up data matching and outreach systems. They will also support these state agencies to test different strategies and evaluate what works for them.

Going forward, BDT and its collaborators will issue an RFP for state agencies to apply to be part of the program. The program’s timeline takes place over the next five years, with two rounds of RFPs.

Roth-Eisenberg said BDT is excited to work with state agencies and show them how to use data they already have to identify people who are eligible for WIC, but not yet enrolled. This strategy is part of a broader WIC modernization effort.

“This is open not just to states who have really sophisticated data teams and data matching capabilities already,” Roth-Eisenberg said. “We’re looking to serve the whole spectrum of state agencies who have never dipped their toe into this type of work before all the way up to the folks who have maybe done some of this work and are ready to or interested in trying something new or something innovative.”