Feb 15, 2024 - Health

Study: WIC usage decreased in Arkansas during the pandemic

Illustration of a hundred dollar bill-shaped box filled with produce

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Usage of the Women, Infants and Children program fell off during the pandemic, according to new research from University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Background: WIC is a state program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women with children under 5. Recipients get money that can go toward certain foods and nutrition education.

What they're saying: "When we see that the use of WIC declines for a community who's already at increased risk of bad infant and maternal health outcomes, those bad health outcomes might get even worse," UAMS professor Clare Brown said in a news release.

By the numbers: Participation in WIC dropped from 66.6% in 2016 to 57.9% in 2022.

What happened: Hours were limited during the pandemic at clinics where people are screened before applying for the program, Brown said.

What's next: Factors that could help increase WIC participation include:

  • Longer hours at clinics and agencies that facilitate the application process.
  • Providing non-English applications and resources.
  • Allowing various proofs of residency.
  • More participating stores.
  • More WIC-eligible foods.
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