The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $53 million in modernization grants to tackle technology modernization goals for the agency’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – otherwise known as WIC.

The grant money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which appropriated $390 million to help USDA improve the WIC program.

“WIC is an incredibly powerful public health program, with strong, proven benefits for participants, so we’ve got to do all we can to connect eligible mothers, infants, and children to the program and provide them with a positive, meaningful experience,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The $53 million of grant money will go to the following areas:

  • The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) has been awarded more than $20 million to help test and acquire data for a different delivery method programs;
  • $23 million has been awarded to 66 WIC state agencies to help upgrade tools for leveraging text messaging, mobile phone support, appointment scheduling tools, plain language and limited English proficiency support, and more; and
  • Another $10 million has been awarded to 19 WIC agencies to help with modernizing the grocery shopping experience and move towards an online shopping option and format.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also recently entered into a contract to help the WIC program reach more people in need while avoiding disparities in the program, USDA said.

“These grants build on the USDA’s extensive efforts to strengthen the WIC program, make it easier and more convenient for participants, and use data and feedback from stakeholders to fulfill our commitment to serve them well,” said Vilsack.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.