- Walmart, Hy-Vee and Buche Foods are participating in an online purchasing pilot for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
- Walmart announced on Friday it will begin testing WIC online ordering at 85 stores across Washington and Massachusetts next year as part of the multi-phase pilot by the USDA and the Nebraska-based Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (GSCN), a nonprofit research center focused on public health nutrition.
- The WIC pilot follows the expansion of SNAP online purchasing and calls by the grocery industry to improve e-commerce accessibility to people facing food insecurity.
Last year, the USDA announced the GSCN would develop a program to allow WIC participants to use their benefits online on a trial basis using a $2.5 million grant from the agency's Food and Nutrition Service. Now, the multi-phase, three-year project is underway, with the GSCN first developing an implementation guide for WIC online ordering. online ordering.
The retailers, which will be working with WIC state agencies, are a part of three projects that aim to implement and test how to make online ordering available to WIC participants.
Hy-Vee will start the pilot with one store in Des Moines, Iowa, before expanding into Minnesota and Nebraska. For Buche Foods, the pilot will kick off at locations located on Oglala Lakota Indian Reservation and the Rosebud Indian Reservation before expanding to five additional stores in South Dakota. A timeline for when the retailers' pilots will begin was not included in an announcement by the GSCN.
Walmart's WIC pilot will be available at eligible stores in the two states, reaching nearly 120,000 WIC participants in Washington and 115,000 in Massachusetts, the GSCN said. The retailer said it plans to expand the offering to more states in the future like it did when it piloted SNAP online purchasing.
The pilot includes evaluations of the tests, which the GSCN will use to update its implementation guide and also create a report with recommendations on how to roll out WIC online ordering nationwide.
Food insecurity has gained more prominence during the pandemic, with the National Grocers Association calling on Congress this spring to cut red tape facing WIC vendors. More than 6 million women, infants and children participate in WIC yearly.
Last month, a USDA task force published a report giving a detailed overview of what WIC online purchasing could look like, including ordering, fulfillment, receipt of goods and post-pickup or delivery, and recommended regulatory changes.