As you head to the grocery stores in coming days to buy essentials during the coronavirus pandemic, you'll be faced with choices about what to buy as store shelves empty. One choice you can make that will make a big difference is to leave the WIC-approved foods on the shelf when stocking up.
Have you ever noticed a little red emblem on some price tags on grocery store shelves that reads "WIC"? This tiny symbol signifies items eligible for purchase with benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The federal program supports the nutritional needs of low-income families nationwide, but only allows for certain types of foods to be purchased with its benefits. So where some shoppers can choose a different brand of oatmeal or cereal if their preferred brand is out of stock, families with WIC benefits must purchase only items with the WIC symbol on the store price tag. Once the store is out of that item, shoppers with WIC don't have another option.
A Facebook post by author Molly Cantrell King that highlights the importance of not purchasing WIC-approved items has been shared nearly 5,000 times. The post includes a photo of a WIC emblem on a grocery store shelf price tag for cereal and reminds shoppers that when a store runs out of WIC-approved items, families who use WIC benefits can't simply switch to another brand.
Think about it this way: Have you ever experienced frustration when your local supermarket is out of your preferred brand of peanut butter? The horror! How dare they be out of the brand that you like best? This thought process is a privilege, friends.
Now, imagine seeing shelves lined with several peanut butter options, but being told your form of payment only covers one specific type of peanut butter. And, oh by the way, all of that peanut butter is currently sold out. How would that make you feel? Pretty terrible, right? This is the unfortunate reality for many people who depend on WIC benefits to feed their families.
With grocery store shelves increasingly empty due to Americans stocking up on everyday essentials because of the coronavirus pandemic, some shoppers may find themselves buying brands that differ from what they get on a typical weekly grocery run. Maybe you prefer one specific organic milk brand, but will settle for store-brand skim over no milk at all. Unfortunately, families using WIC benefits to purchase necessities don't have that privilege. If a store is out of WIC-approved milk, shoppers using benefits will either have to forgo buying milk or try their luck at a different store where they could just encounter the same problem all over again.
Approximately 6.8 million women and children utilize WIC services each month nationwide, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) food and nutrition services website. If you don't depend on WIC benefits to purchase your groceries and essential household items, you can help support the many families who do by choosing items that don't have a WIC tag. This simple step will help ensure that people who depend on these benefits will also have the opportunity to provide necessities for their family during the pandemic.
With the entire nation in a state of near-panic at the moment, small acts of kindness are what will help hold us all together at the end of the day. Whether that is phoning your elderly neighbor to check in or choosing to forgo buying the WIC-approved groceries when you have another option, you can take steps to ensure that your neighbors are safe and healthy — even from a distance.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.