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PHFE (Public Health Foundation Enterprises) WIC Program – California WIC Card Unveiling Press Conference

PHFE (Public Health Foundation Enterprises) WIC Program – California WIC Card Unveiling Press Conference

Rep. Judy Chu

Monday, February 3, 2019


Hello! I am so happy to be here today with Public Health Foundation Enterprises and California WIC to celebrate an important step forward for this program. For more than 45 years, WIC – or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children – has been instrumental in improving the health and nutrition of our country’s expectant mothers and young children. And with today’s announcement of the new California WIC card, nutritious food for low income families is going to be more accessible than ever!

This is so important because far too many children are living without knowing when or what their next meal will be. And California is no exception. Nearly 23% of children 0-3 years old live in poverty in our state. And that comes with long term consequences like poor health, developmental delays, and trouble in school. But we know that early intervention with WIC can make all the difference, resulting in less poverty, hospitalizations, health problems, and setting children up for a successful future.

Of course, WIC is more than just access to nutritious foods. It also means education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and social services for millions of families, including over one million in California. These investments have also been proven to lead to healthier infants, more nutritious diets, and better health care for children that leads to higher academic achievement and success over a lifetime.

WIC is a bonus to our economy as well. In the long run, better prepared and better achieving students are the key to a more prosperous future. And in the short term, WIC enables low income families to shop for essential groceries, meaning they’re supporting the local economy and especially our grocers and supermarkets. Clearly this is an investment that pays off for not just WIC participants, but the whle community.

That is why it is so important that we ensure WIC is as easy to use as possible, and that is exactly what the WIC card has accomplished. For decades, WIC participants were required to redeem paper vouchers at the register when purchasing groceries for their families. This process could be long and cumbersome at the checkout line and contribute to feelings of stigmatization for participants. That alone is a problem. There is no shame in feeding your family, and it is in all our interests to ensure families are cared for and fed without stigma.

And now we can. The new California WIC card makes transactions as quick, easy, and private as using any other credit card! And although 60% of all infants born in California receive WIC services, an estimated 11% of all mothers with recent births are eligible but still not participating. The California WIC card can help to close that gap and ensure that every child born in the state receives the care and nutrition they deserve.

The WIC card also means much more than just faster payment at the grocery store. In fact, it can lead to better availability of healthy foods for entire communities! Because WIC users are more likely to buy nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the program leads stores to stock more healthy food options in lower income neighborhoods where fresh produce and healthy products can be harder to find. This benefits all consumers, regardless of whether they participate in WIC.

I am so grateful to California WIC for making this important change, and I am working to do my part to strengthen the program in Congress. That is why robust funding for WIC, including increases for breastfeeding peer counseling, infrastructure, research and evaluation, and the WIC contingency fund, was among my top priorities for federal appropriations this year.

WIC’s comprehensive approach to nutrition, pre- and post-natal health, and connection to a network of services makes it one of the most effective and successful government programs, and a foundation of the nutrition safety net in this country. And new technology like the California WIC card is only making this program stronger, more durable, and more accessible to the women, infants, and children that stand to benefit. So thank you all so much for your tireless work making Californians healthier every day, and I am so honored to be here to celebrate with you today!

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