NGA Recommends USDA Improve the WIC Online Proposal

The National Grocers Association (NGA) voiced its support for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to implement the WIC Online Program. The proposed updates aim to facilitate online access, ordering, and food delivery for WIC participants.

In its comments addressed to USDA, NGA offered recommendations to ensure that independent supermarkets and their customers can fully participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Online Program.

“USDA’s WIC program is critical in addressing nutrition insecurity and food access for millions across the country, especially for those living in urban, rural, and underserved areas,” said Stephanie Johnson, NGA vice president of government relations.

“Many participants in the WIC program can have limited transportation access or limited time to grocery shop, and current regulations require WIC shopping to take place physically in person. An effective WIC online program would expand access to families in need,” Johnson noted.

Related Article: Food Industry Backs USDA’s Proposed Stronger WIC Food Package

To improve the WIC online access rule, NGA provided several recommendations to the USDA:

  • Clarify the definitions and requirements for brick-and-mortar and internet-only vendors.
  • Streamline authorization and certification requirements for participating vendors.
  • Provide guidance on product replacement and substitution in a virtual setting.
  • Provide clear guidance on the types of payments permitted through WIC online.

In its comments, NGA also expressed disappointment that USDA places little emphasis on the impact the proposed rule will have on independent supermarkets (referred to as small vendors/retailers throughout the rule) and the need for technical assistance and funding to implement WIC online successfully.

The organization emphasizes that it will require detailed USDA guidance, tools, and resources to implement WIC online transactions similar to those needed for SNAP online and EBT implementation.

Johnson cautioned, “While NGA supports an effective WIC online program, the proposed rule lacks general details and guidance for retailers on how actually to implement online ordering for WIC.”