Sunday, June 06, 2004

WIC Crisis Identical to Health Care Crisis

There is a federal program called WIC that pays for food for women with children. According to a New York Times article today, 47 percent of all babies born in America each year are participating in the program which cost $4.6 Billion this year.

Stores are popping up that only accept WIC vouchers, not cash and those stores are charging prices higher than regular retail stores. In some cases, the WIC-only stores are charging prices DOUBLE the prices in a WalMart.

Of course, the women with the WIC vouchers don't care about the prices because they don't foot the bill. The WIC retailers are paid by our tax dollars from the federal government.

Federal officials are alarmed because the higher prices mean the $4.6 Billion paid by our tax dollars won't go as far as it should.

Duh! Any moron could have predicted this would happen but apparently our congressmen were caught off guard.

This is exactly the same principle that caused our health care crisis.

Here is a portion of the New York Times article:
June 6, 2004

Selling to Poor, Stores Bill U.S. for Top Prices


WASHINGTON, June 5 - Federal and state officials are expressing alarm about the proliferation of food stores that cater to low-income people but charge more than other grocery stores, thus driving up the cost of a major federal nutrition program.

The program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or W.I.C., helps feed 7.7 million people each month by providing vouchers for infant formula, juice, eggs, milk, cheese, cereal and dried beans. Now a growing number of stores are selling only to W.I.C. families, accepting only the government vouchers, not cash, for payment.

About 47 percent of all babies born in the United States each year participate in the program.

"The rise in W.I.C.-only stores is a fairly recent phenomenon," said Eric M. Bost, under secretary of the Agriculture Department, which runs the program. Analysis of food costs in California and Texas shows that "W.I.C.-only stores in these states have higher prices, on average, than other authorized retailers," Mr. Bost said.

The stores have found a niche in the market that Congress did not anticipate. Proprietors said the stores had become popular because they offer convenient locations and superior service.


The W.I.C. families are not particularly sensitive to shelf prices because their vouchers buy a specific food package, regardless of the amount charged to state agencies, which administer the program with federal money.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company


At 4/26/2005 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it is true that some WIC Only stores have charged much higher prices than traditional grocery stores, this isn't always the case, nor is it the whole story. The states are required to establish pricing guidelines for the expenditure of their federal WIC dollars. Some states have implemented strict policies requiring competitive pricing by ALL WIC approved vendors. If the WIC administrators are doing a good job, they will establish competitive cost guidelines as well as choosing products that will allow them to get the "most bang for their buck".

WIC vouchers are complicated to use. Participants (which include our military personnel) are required to find the least cost milk, eggs, and cheese. In addition they are allowed 36 oz of cereal but only certain sizes of certain brands are allowed. If a person cannot read or cannot read well or speak English, this is nearly impossible. Also at the check stand, it is ALWAYS a hassle because the cashier must be totally sure that the items selected out of the 30,000 different skus in a typical grocery store are the proper ones. Finally, most WIC Only stores are located in the neighborhoods where the participants live. Many times, it is several miles to the nearest regular grocery store and transportation is a big issue. Imagine trying to ride the bus with small children and 3 sacks of groceries.

The WIC program is an outstanding program. Statistics show that for every dollar spent on WIC, $3 are saved down the road in medical costs. It is important the we make it as accessible as possible for these young families.


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