Earlier this year, city families receiving WIC benefits received some extra money for a few months to help buy nutritious food.
Now, a pilot program is making it easier for them to shop and actually put that food on their table.
Foodlink has expanded its Curbside Market to launch the first mobile WIC market in the nation.
A pilot program that started in May sends a truck with capacity for a full range of WIC-eligible products to two stops each Saturday. From 9 to 11 a.m., the truck is at Cameron Ministries, 48 Cameron St.., and from noon to 2 p.m. the truck is at 500 Webster Ave. WIC products include cereals, whole grains, infant food and formula, 100% juice, dairy and proteins such as beans and peanut butter.
The pilot runs through November, at which time results will be assessed. The two initial stops may stay, or the route may change and more stops may be added.
The pilot overlapped the $35 boost in benefits that started in June and is scheduled to run through September. The money came from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, part of the federal response to the pandemic.
While money is one barrier to nutritious food, access is another. WIC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, helps low-income women, infants and children up to age 5 to get nutritious foods to supplement their diets. Of the 52 approved WIC vendors in Monroe County, 14 are in the city and are clustered in a few ZIP codes.
According to Foodlink, research over four decades shows that WIC participation is associated with healthier births, reduced infant mortality, more nutritious diets and improved cognitive development and academic achievement.
But WIC has been underused, according to data provided by Foodlink.
In New York, 53.9% of all eligible participants were enrolled in the program in 2017. More recent data suggests that number likely has declined, as total participation in New York has dropped 26.4% in the last five years (460,000 to 362,000). In Monroe County, more than 20,000 residents are active participants in WIC, according to 2019 data.
The mobile WIC market is one answer to the question of how to get healthy food to families with limited transportation.
The Curbside Market has only one truck with enough space to stock WIC products. However, the other trucks with only produce are able to accept the electronic WIC card.
To see a map of Curbside Market stops, go to www.FoodlinkNY.org/CurbsideMarket