FNS awards cooperative agreement to streamline enrollment in WIC through data matching

Originally published by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service on September 21, 2023.

Washington, Sept. 21, 2023 – USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service awarded a cooperative agreement of nearly $10 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in support of ongoing efforts to modernize and enhance the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children, with the goal of helping all eligible mothers and children access the program to afford healthy food.

The Bloomberg School and its collaborators will provide financial, technical, and evaluation support to WIC state agencies to streamline access to WIC through outreach and data matching with other federal programs. Today’s announcement is part of USDA’s broader plan to modernize, strengthen, and expand the reach of WIC to improve health outcomes for moms, babies, and young children.

“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, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. “This work also fulfills part of FNS’ commitment to the administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health to end hunger by making it easier for everyone to access and afford fruits, vegetables and other components of a healthy diet.”

The Bloomberg School and its collaborators, Benefits Data Trust and the National WIC Association, will provide subgrants and support to WIC state agencies for expanding the use of data matching – with appropriate participant consent – to identify, refer, and enroll eligible participants of other federal programs like Medicaid and SNAP. Laura Caulfield, PhD, professor of nutrition at the Bloomberg School, will serve as Principal Investigator.

FNS encouraged state agencies earlier this year to embark on the journey to connect eligible moms and kids in SNAP and Medicaid with WIC benefits; this funding and technical assistance supports progress toward that goal by reducing administrative burden for both participants and administering agencies.

“A healthier future starts with our children,” said Dean. “WIC provides that healthy start to 6.7 million women, infants and children, but still, about half of those who are eligible for WIC are not enrolled. We must do more to extend the powerful benefits of WIC to give infants and toddlers a healthy start to life.”

To learn more about efforts to modernize and improve WIC, visit the FNS website.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a suite of 16 nutrition assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve 1 in 4 Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable food essential to optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutrition recommendations through the co-development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS’s report, “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Elevate Nutrition Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service,” highlights ways the agency will support the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022.