ACTION ALERT: WIC Expansion Act of 2018

Women, Infants, and Children Program Expansion Act of 2018

Community Action Guide

Prepared by the DC Food Policy Council’s Working Group on Sustainable Food Procurement

What is WIC and why does it matter?

WIC is a federal program intended to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 by providing nutritious foods, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care and social services. Nationally, WIC is proven to contribute to healthier pregnancies, lower rates of infant mortality, and better nutrition and cognitive development among young children.[1] DC’s rates of eligible families enrolling in and redeeming WIC are lower than surrounding areas, leaving Federal dollars on the table that could be used to fight hunger and poor health in our community.

What does this bill do?

The WIC Program Expansion Act is intended to improve low-income DC families’ access to healthy food. It does so in four ways:

  • It enhances local flexibility in determining the requirements for a DC store to accept WIC. The Act eases the restrictions on a participating store’s minimum square footage, number of cashiers, and organic product offerings with the goal of helping more DC stores accept WIC and encouraging the launch of new local businesses that will build WIC into their business models and serve neighborhoods that do not currently have grocery stores.
  • It promotes transparency and actionable next steps. With data on how WIC funding has been used over the past five years and the specific barriers faced by current and potential WIC vendors, the Act calls for a plan to help more small stores in DC accept WIC.
  • It uses data to make sure low-income children don’t fall through the cracks. By using available government data to identify children ages 0 – 5 who are enrolled in Medicaid or SNAP but not WIC, the city will be able to reach out to those eligible households and connect them with WIC benefits.
  • It brings the community together to increase WIC participation and respond to the needs of DC families. By creating a WIC Outreach Advisory Board that will include local businesses, grocers, nonprofits, healthcare providers, and early childcare providers, the Act will ensure that diverse perspectives are heard and used to expand access.

How else might the bill be improved?

  • District government may still want to set local parameters for WIC acceptance beyond what Federal guidelines specify, and we think there is a way to do that in a collaborative, data-driven way. We propose eliminating local restrictions on minimum square footage – which currently require a store to have 10,000 square feet – and points-of-sale only until a WIC Vendor Implementation Plan that informs future local requirements can be completed by the Department of Health.
  • We propose re-organizing the single Mayoral report required in the Act into two separate ones: a WIC Vendor Implementation Plan focused on strategies for increasing WIC vendor participation among small stores, corner stores, and pharmacies; and a WIC Participation Report that shows how effectively DC is drawing down federal WIC funds and informing eligible residents about how to enroll in WIC.
  • We propose including specific language around the new electronic benefit (e-WIC) pilot program in this bill, to ensure the expansion of the WIC program is informed by this important shift in new technology and how WIC benefits are redeemed.

How can you help make this bill a real law?

On July 11th at 10am in Room 500 the Committee on Health will hold a Public Hearing on the WIC Program Expansion Act of 2018. In-person testimonies make a big difference to our Councilmembers, so making the time to join this hearing and bring others with you will have a big impact on the bill’s success!

What do I have to do if I want to participate in this hearing?

Those who wish to testify should contact Malcolm Cameron at mcameron@dccouncil.us or (202) 654-6179 and provide your name, organizational affiliation (if any), and title, by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, July 9. You must bring 10 copies of your written testimony to the hearing.

As an individual, you will have 3 minutes to speak, and if you represent an organization or business, you may have up to 5 minutes. Written testimony can be as long as you’d like, but what you say aloud to the Council needs to fit in those timeframes. Remember that one page of double-spaced text (about 250 words) takes about 2 minutes to read aloud, so we recommend planning your remarks accordingly. After you testify, the Council may ask follow-up questions about what you’ve said and why you care about this issue. If you’ve never testified before, we recommend reviewing this brief, helpful guide.

In terms of structuring your testimony, we recommend:

  • Thanking the Councilmembers for convening this hearing and considering this bill;
  • Briefly introducing yourself and/or your organization/business;
  • Explaining why you care about WIC, food access, or food insecurity;
  • Explaining how this bill will make a difference to you, your organization, or your community;
  • Expressing any concerns you might have about elements of this bill that might be incomplete or in need of additional clarification;
  • Close by thanking the Councilmembers for listening and re-stating clearly whether you think the Council should support this legislation and make it a law of DC;

Lastly, be sure to practice reading your testimony aloud before the big day, and timing how long it takes you. Practicing will help you stay on time and make your points clearly and succinctly.

What can I do if I can’t testify that day?

If you are unable to testify at the hearing, written statements are encouraged and will be made a part of the official record. The record typically closes 10 business days after each hearing. Written statements can be emailed to Malcolm Cameron at mcameron@dccouncil.us.

Thank you for being part of the movement to expand access to healthy food in our community! Please direct any additional questions or concerns to dcfoodpolicy@dc.gov.

[1] USDA Office of Food and Nutrition Services, “How WIC Helps,” <https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/about-wic-how-wic-helps&gt;


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