New research shows that participants and directors of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) across California greatly appreciate the hybrid model of remote and in-person services that have been offered during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommend permanently adopting USDA waivers that allow for these flexibilities. The California WIC program used USDA WIC waivers to provide almost 1 million pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum mothers and their children (up to age five) with nutrition education, nutritious food, and breastfeeding support during the pandemic when needs were heightened. Interviews with California WIC participants and directors showed that WIC clinics successfully transitioned to offering virtual services in addition to in-person walk-in appointments as needed. Participants appreciated the ease of virtual enrollment and remote certification, and directors wanted to continue the remote options in the future. The study was published online in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was conducted by researchers Lauren Au and Alana Chaney from the University of California, Davis Department of Nutrition, Shannon E. Whaley, Christopher Anderson, Catherine Martinez from Public Health Foundation Enterprises-WIC, and Christina Hecht, Marisa Tsai, Nicole Vital, and Lorrene Ritchie from the UC Nutrition Policy Institute. The study was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
The American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2022 Live Online, happens virtually June 14-16, 2022. Nutrition Policy Institute researchers will share results at the conference from their latest studies on the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Marisa Tsai will speak about ‘Larger WIC Cash Value Benefit for Vegetables and Fruit Is Associated With Lower Food Insecurity and Improved Participant Satisfaction in WIC Families With Children'; co-authors include Lorrene Ritchie from NPI. Amanda Linares will present a poster on ‘Association of Frequency of School Meal Consumption and Student Dietary Intake during COVID-related School Closures'; co-authors include Kaela Plank, Sridharshi Hewawitharana and Gail Woodward-Lopez from NPI. Both Tsai and Linares' presentations are available on-demand. University of California, Davis graduate student Alana Chaney will present live, online a poster on ‘Addressing Barriers to WIC Participation During COVID-19: A Qualitative Examination of California WIC Participants and Local Agency Directors'; co-authors include Lorrene Ritchie, Marisa Tsai and Nicole Vitale of NPI.
Nutrition Policy Institute researchers are partnering with pediatrician and public health researcher Anisha Patel from Stanford University on a new National Institutes of Health-funded study to understand the impact of a childcare-based healthy beverage intervention. The study is titled, “A Multi-Level Intervention to Promote Healthy Beverage Intake through Childcare.” NPI researchers will be responsible for evaluating the intervention's impact on child drinking water intake and dietary intake. The study builds on NPI's previous collaboration with Patel to evaluate a similar intervention in school settings as part of “The Impact of School Water Access on Child Food and Beverage Intake and Obesity” study, also funded by the NIH. The NPI research team includes Lorrene Ritchie, cooperative extension specialist and director of NPI, who will be working with NPI's Christina Hecht, director of NPI's National Drinking Water Alliance, Suzanne Rauzon, Celeste Felix, Nicole Vital and Patricia Wakimoto. The five-year project began in August 2021.
Rich with quotes from California WIC participants and local agency directors, two new reports and a policy brief highlight the strong consensus that the waivers USDA put in place and the other modifications the state implemented to make WIC responsive to COVID should be incorporated as permanent options in the program. In light of Congress's imminent program reauthorization, these recommendations informed by research conducted by Public Health Foundation Enterprises (PHFE)-WIC and the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), part of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), take on special significance. Researchers collected information on the experiences with WIC during COVID from interviews with 182 WIC participants, 22 interviews with local WIC agency directors and refinement of interpretation from a meeting with 12 WIC agency directors, and finally, recommendations from multiple perspectives shared at a convening of over 20 local, state, and national WIC participants, experts and leaders. The research team included Lorrene Ritchie, Christina Hecht, Nicole Vital, Ron Strochlic, Marisa Tsai, Claudia Olague, Anna Rios, and Ken Hecht from NPI, Lauren Au from UC Davis Department of Nutrition, and Christopher Anderson, Catherine Martinez, Martha Meza and Shannon Whaley from PHFE-WIC. The project was funded by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation with additional funding from the California Department of Public Health WIC Branch.
The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support for low-income women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. The COVID-19 pandemic brought unexpected and unprecedented changes to WIC service delivery in order to protect the health and well-being of participants and staff. Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) researchers shared experiences of California WIC families during the COVID-19 pandemic at the American Society for Nutrition's annual conference, Nutrition 2021 Live Online, held virtually June 7-10, 2021. The presentation, titled "WIC is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned from Los Angeles County participants", shared results of data collected from WIC participants and local WIC agency directors in California. Results highlight the significant success of the California WIC program in reaching participants and meeting their needs during the COVID crisis and suggest multiple strategies useful for continued program improvements throughout the nation. NPI's Lorrene Ritchie, Nicole Vital, and Marisa Tsai, presented at the conference in collaboration with Lauren Au of the University of California (UC), Davis Department of Nutrition, and Shannon Whaley, Chris Anderson, Martha Meza, and Catherine Martinez of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, WIC. The project was funded by a grant from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.