WIC Child Nutrition Program saw enrollment grow after switch from paper vouchers

A Penn Medicine study finds electronic benefit cards are more user-friendly and encourage less stigma than paper vouchers.

The U.S. government’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, usually abbreviated as WIC, saw a jump in enrollment of nearly 8 percent in states that implemented a federally mandated switch from paper vouchers to electronic benefit cards (EBTs), according to a study led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Sign in grocery store windows indicating that SNAP is welcomed there.

The finding, published in JAMA Pediatrics, supports the rationale for the switch, which was to increase participation by making it easier and less stigmatizing to obtain and redeem WIC benefits.

“The broad takeaway from this study is that making benefit programs more user friendly may be a good way to help these programs reach the children and families who need them,” says study lead author Aditi Vasan, a postdoctoral fellow in the National Clinician Scholars Program at Penn Medicine, and a pediatric hospitalist and health services researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

WIC is a federal welfare program, established in 1972, that offers money to states for nutrition education, health care referrals, and nutritious foods for low-income mothers or mothers-to-be, and to infants and young children who are at nutritional risk.

This story is by Kelsey Odorczyk. Read more at Penn Medicine News.