Expanded offerings, greater flexibility in substitutions and package size
would help independent grocers better serve WIC beneficiaries.
Washington D.C. – The National Grocers Association (NGA), the trade association representing the independent supermarket industry, has provided comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on its proposed rule on revisions to food packages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
In a letter sent today to WIC Administration Chief Allison Post, NGA suggested improvements to the WIC food package that can help increase retailer participation as well as food access for WIC beneficiaries.
NGA supports many of the food package expansions proposed by the USDA including expanded product offerings, pack size flexibility, product substitutions and “up to” amounts. These changes will improve the shopping experience for customers and ensure that retailers are better able to meet their needs.
NGA did take issue with state-level stocking requirements the proposed package expansion. “Over the years, NGA members have struggled and have been penalized for not meeting state-level stocking requirements. These requirements often lead to food waste and economic losses for stores,” Stephanie Johnson, NGA vice president of government relations, wrote in the comments. “We suggest creating an essential foods package with reasonable stocking requirements and an optional foods package with foods that are encouraged and allowed to be sold but do not have stringent stocking requirements. This will allow our members to meet the needs of their communities while also reducing food waste and economic losses.”
As members continue to deal with supply chain issues, NGA urged the USDA to consider emergency substitutions when finalizing the rule. “Retailers have experienced difficulties keeping WIC-approved foods and formula in stock after natural disasters due to infrastructure and transportation issues, and during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to high demand. This often leads to WIC participants walking away from the store without their prescribed products in hand,” Johnson wrote. “USDA should allow WIC vendors operating during severe supply shortages, disasters or public health emergency areas to be provided flexibility by permitting substitution for certain WIC-authorized items that are unavailable immediately.”
Independent and community-focused grocers are committed to supporting families living in their communities that are on WIC. “We urge you to keep this important program strong by improving the functioning and processes for retailer participation,” Johnson concluded. “NGA members look forward to working with USDA as the department finalizes revisions to the WIC food package.”
Click here for a summary of proposed WIC food Package Changes