According to a recent report by the Food Research & Action Center, Missouri saw one of the nation’s sharpest drops in participation in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program during the pandemic. Participation in the program that helps low-income women and children fell by nearly one fifth from February 2020 to February 2022. The only state with a steeper decline in participation was New Mexico.
One reason states like Missouri saw a sharp decline is related to the burdensome way some states reload WIC benefits. Missouri is one of just nine states which uses an “offline” system that requires participants’ benefits to be physically swiped when loading benefits. All the other states operate “online” systems capable of remotely and automatically reloading benefits, eliminating the need for participant contact. Missouri began transitioning to a less-burdensome system last year, but it is estimated it will take another four years to complete.