States Differ in the Distribution of WIC Benefits across Types of Retail Food Stores

By Rhone, Alana; Tiehen, Laura | Amber Waves, August 2016 | Go to article overview

States Differ in the Distribution of WIC Benefits across Types of Retail Food Stores


Rhone, Alana, Tiehen, Laura, Amber Waves


In fiscal 2015, 8 million women, infants, and children under age 5 participated in USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Participants in 48 States and the District of Columbia received paper vouchers or electronic benefit cards redeemable at authorized retail stores for a set of nutrient-rich supplemental foods. WIC participants in Mississippi pick up their WIC foods at distribution centers, and prior to 2016, Vermont participants had their WIC foods delivered to their homes. Stores are reimbursed for the retail price of the foods purchased with WIC benefits, subject to State maximum reimbursement levels. If WIC benefits are redeemed at stores with higher prices, program costs would increase.

Using two USDA administrative data sources, a recent ERS report found that over three-fourths of WIC benefits that were redeemed in stores in fiscal 2012 were redeemed at large stores (supercenters, supermarkets, and large grocery stores), ranging from 50 percent in California to 99 percent in Nevada. Large stores accounted for 81 percent or more of WIC retail redemptions in 30 States. The high share of WIC redemptions at large stores likely reflects the high share (63 percent) of large stores that were WIC-authorized retail vendors in 2012. Also, according to the National Survey of WIC Participants-II, 84 percent of participants reported redeeming their WIC benefits at the same stores where they do their usual food shopping.

WIC benefits are also redeemed at other retail outlets, such as medium and small grocery stores, WIC-only stores, and A50 stores (those that derive more than 50 percent of their annual food sales revenue from WIC redemptions). …

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States Differ in the Distribution of WIC Benefits across Types of Retail Food Stores
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