In April and May 2023 the Department of Agriculture released policy memos that are relevant to state efforts to use cross-program data matching and targeted outreach to increase WIC coverage: Data Sharing to Improve Outreach and Streamline Certification in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and Streamlining Certification — Documentation Guidance. Please refer to them for the latest policy guidance.
In recent years, more than 40 percent of eligible individuals have missed out on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), despite the program’s well-documented dietary, health, and developmental benefits. Many of those missing out on WIC are enrolled in Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which makes them automatically income-eligible, or “adjunctively eligible,” for WIC. This toolkit is designed to help state and local WIC agencies leverage data from Medicaid and SNAP to measure enrollment gaps and increase enrollment using tools to plan, launch, and/or strengthen data matching and targeted outreach to eligible families who are not receiving WIC benefits.
How to Use This Toolkit and Additional Context
How to Use This Toolkit
Each of the nine topic areas in this toolkit includes background, practical planning tools, resources, and examples to guide users through the process of developing data-informed outreach. By briefly reviewing the planning tools in advance, you will be able to identify the colleagues you will need to involve in each step and determine how much time you will need to devote to each tool.
Completing this toolkit will help your team:
- Set project goals for increasing WIC participation and enrolling a greater share of adjunctively eligible families;
- Develop a comprehensive workplan for launching a data matching and targeted outreach initiative;
- Plan an evaluation that measures progress toward goals and can guide improvements over time; and
- Benefit from lessons learned in states that have matched Medicaid or SNAP data with WIC data to measure the enrollment gap and conduct targeted outreach.
While this toolkit will equip your team to implement data matching and targeted outreach to reach more families eligible for WIC, this particular outreach model is only one part of a broader strategy to connect underserved people to WIC. The model explained in this toolkit is effective at identifying eligible non-participants who are already enrolled in another program, such as Medicaid or SNAP; different types of outreach may be needed, however, to reach those who are not already connected to other benefits. Before embarking on this type of outreach, it is important to assess who is eligible for WIC but missing out. That assessment will help determine whether Medicaid and SNAP participants are a key group for outreach and which subsets of Medicaid and SNAP participants to focus on.
This toolkit builds on growing interest from policymakers in ensuring that low-income families with young children receive the full package of supports for which they are eligible, which can reduce short-term hardship and put children on a healthier course for life. At the direction of Congress, the Department of Agriculture is developing state-level estimates of pregnant individuals, infants, and children under age 5 who are participating in Medicaid or SNAP but not WIC. States may wish to refine those estimates once they become available and use them to measure progress over time, identify underserved groups, or target outreach.
The toolkit is informed by recent state pilots conducted in Colorado, Massachusetts, Montana, and Virginia, where outreach strategies were tested through randomized control trials. In partnership with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and Benefits Data Trust (BDT), each of these states performed cross-program data matches between WIC and Medicaid, SNAP, and/or other means-tested programs and found large numbers of WIC-eligible non-participants. Evidence from the pilot evaluationsOpens in a new window indicates that targeted text outreach to adjunctively eligible families is a practical, sustainable strategy to improve WIC certification rates. BDT and CBPP used this information to develop a workshop series for seven additional states, during which the planning tools included in this toolkit were initially developed and then used by state WIC agencies.
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Understanding Current WIC Outreach
WIC agencies conduct many forms of outreach, but few are targeted directly to families known to be adjunctively eligible for WIC. A helpful starting place for state and local teams interested in launching new targeted outreach practices is to catalog how your WIC agencies currently conduct outreach. This information can help you assess how targeted outreach practices could fit into ongoing operations and consider where targeted outreach would require new processes.
Planning Tool 1: Describing the Outreach Landscape
This exercise will set the foundation for building effective outreach and enrollment strategies by guiding your team through gathering key information about your existing outreach practices.
Benefits Data Trust and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 5, 2021.Outreach Landscape ExamplesOpens in a new window
This resource provides descriptions of outreach in two states.
Examples published in Targeted Text Message Outreach Can Increase WIC Enrollment, Pilots ShowOpens in a new window, Benefits Data Trust and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 10, 2021.
This project was made possible by a collaboration between Center on Budget & Policy Priorities and Benefits Data Trust, with support from the Walmart Foundation, Ballmer Group, Mastercard Impact Fund, and The Rockefeller Foundation.
For questions about this toolkit, comments, suggestions, or technical assistance requests please contact Benefits Data Trust at firstname.lastname@example.org.