YORK, Pa. — The Community Progress Council in York was awarded a $550,000 grant to expand WIC services through a program called WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO).
WIC, formally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, is a program run by the USDA to improve nutrition for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under the age of five.
“WIC is very focused on healthy, nutritious foods. In addition to the food benefits that we’re providing families, which does average about $85 a month currently, we’re also providing nutrition education and counseling,” said Carly Hess, director of the Community Progress Council’s WIC program.
Just 42.6% of eligible Pennsylvanians signed up for WIC benefits as of 2020, according to USDA statistics.
“There’s a whole population out there that may not be aware of the WIC benefits or it may just not be easy to access,” Hess said.
The grant comes two months after extra pandemic-era SNAP benefits came to an end, leaving more families with less to spend on food, even as food prices rose 8.5% from March 2022 to March 2023.
“We have seen an increase in participation just in the last couple months since the benefits ended, and so it helps supplement what they’re missing out on,” said Hess.
Hess adds the funds will be used to hire two community outreach navigators, who will ideally be bilingual in either Spanish or Haitian Creole. A portion of the grant is allocated for translating outreach documents into languages prevalent in local communities.
The grant will also help pay for a mobile unit to travel to eligible families with young children. The goal is to reach more families in rural areas or with limited transportation.
“We’re connecting them with other resources in the community so it can be a really impactful program for them to connect with,” Hess said.