Sánchez Leads Bipartisan Call to Expand Nutritious Food Access for Women and Children

March 20, 2020
Press Release
Asks Ag Dept to expand WIC-approved items

Washington, DCRep. Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38) led a bipartisan group of 45 members in urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to ensure that WIC-eligible products remain accessible in supermarkets throughout the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As Americans rush to grocery stores to stock up on important items, they may not realize a small symbol on the pricing label that shows an item is ‘WIC’ approved,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “If a store runs out of WIC-approved items like bread or cereal, the people that rely on those products go home empty-handed. People that use WIC to feed their kids can’t just get another brand or kind of food. I’m asking Secretary Purdue to provide clear guidance to state agencies and work with them to broaden the brands or foods under the WIC-approved list. We need to ensure that families can get what they need to stay healthy.”

The letter is signed by Representatives Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Rosa DeLauro (CT-3), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Jenniffer González-Colón (PR-Del), Katherine Clark (MA-5), Harley Rouda (CA-48), Bill Foster (IL-11), Nydia Velázquez (NY-7), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Tim Ryan (OH-13), Mike Thompson (CA-5), Anthony Brown (MD-4), David N. Cicilline (RI-1), Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Terri A. Sewell (AL-7), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-Del), John B. Larson (CT-1), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7), Mark Pocan (WI-2), Bobby L. Rush (IL-1), Jahana Hayes (CT-5), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-8), Adam Smith (WA-9), James P. McGovern (MA-2), Albio Sires (NJ-8), Adam B. Schiff (CA-28), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Jared Huffman (CA-2).

Full text of the letter:

March 20, 2020

Dear Secretary Perdue,

As we work together to help our nation through the COVID-19 pandemic, we write to urge you to protect our constituents that depend on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Following conversations with WIC agencies in our districts as well as media reports of depleted supplies of WIC-eligible products in supermarkets and other vendors throughout our country, we are concerned that WIC recipients will be unable to access the nutritious food they need.  

We urge you to exercise the authority given to you under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, as well as any other existing and forthcoming emergency authorities under the Stafford Act, to ensure WIC families have access to nutritious food during this pandemic. As supermarkets and other approved vendors may be depleted of WIC-eligible foods and formula, it is critical that state agencies and vendors are empowered to meet the needs of WIC families. While we understand that states are responsible for eligible food lists based on federal standards within the seven WIC food packages, we hope USDA will deliver clear guidance to agencies to temporarily expand approved food lists to include suitable substitutions. Though many states are bound by rebate contracts for infant formula, we also urge USDA to work with states to ensure supply and, when possible, access to similar alternatives.

Approved food lists are an important means for agencies to control program costs, but during these extraordinary times may restrict WIC families from purchasing the only nutritious foods available simply because they lack a “WIC” label or other designation. It is critical that any changes in restrictions be clearly communicated to WIC families, vendors, and EBT processors who may be accustomed to a narrow list of brands and labels in their states and territories.  

The lifesaving services and resources of WIC are more important than ever during this uncertain time. We are committed to working with you to ensure families continue to receive the assistance they need. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.