While WIC enrollment in Minnesota is third highest in the nation, that ranking is most true for infants and children under two years of age. Participants start dropping off at nine months.
This means that thousands of eligible children aren’t being served and $24.5 million in federal reimbursements are not claimed.
Our pilot program has proved effective in improving health nutrition and preventing health problems among the infants and young children.
“I like that it helps keep them on a healthy diet,” said one mom. “It is great to track their overall health and growing throughout the year.”
WIC parents often cite multiple reasons for leaving WIC, including transportation and other logistical hurdles, perceived stigma for participants and complex transactions at grocery check-outs.
“Usually what stops me is the transportation, but I usually have family that finds a way to help,” said one participant.
Another said an obstacle was, “Having to use separate checks. Very time consuming for cashiers and the whole process.”
Our pilot initiative awarded incentive grants to 12 WIC clinics in four Minnesota metro counties. The grants provided diaper packs, gas or gift cards – incentives that WIC has identified as most appropriate for its clients.
Since spring 2017, when the incentives were first awarded, 640 households in four counties have received $20,077 in grants for incentives.
By the Numbers
Based on preliminary data from participating counties and WIC clients, two-thirds of respondents agree or strongly agree that diapers/gas cards are causing them to extend their participation in the WIC programs. But the WIC food program remains the strongest draw for participants. Our goal is to provide the equivalent of 4 million additional meals in WIC, which amount to $1 million in federal reimbursement dollars. Other strategies to increase WIC participation include targeting childcare centers, early childhood education and pre-school programs.