The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally funded program, administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services, which helps women and their families access healthy foods, health care, nutrition education and breastfeeding assistance. WIC has proven to be successful at reducing food insecurity and increasing healthier births and more positive developmental outcomes for children, but in recent years WIC program participation and retention has declined nationally and in Illinois.
The Ounce of Prevention Fund is one of four nonprofits, including the Greater Chicago Food Depository, EverThrive Illinois and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty that constitute the WIC Coalition and developed the Making WIC Work in Illinois report. It provides extensive research and recommendations on how to improve the accessibility and effectiveness of WIC in Illinois. Members of the Ounce’s Illinois Policy Team (IPT) Sandy DeLeón and Iveree Brown were involved in this coalition effort over the past several years and they also authored the section on building programmatic partnerships between WIC and early childhood programs.
The coalition has partnered with the Department of Human Services’ Secretary Grace Hou and WIC Director Stephanie Bess to move the recommendations forward. In response to the advocacy of the coalition, the Department has announced that they are going to eliminate barriers to vendor access for all recipients with the roll out of EBT 2020. Specifically in Chicago, the Department will work to ensure that all WIC recipients have equal choice and are able to shop at both participating WIC retailers and WIC Food and Nutrition Centers. This decision by the Department is a big win for the families in Illinois and speaks to the power of partnerships!