As millions of Americans navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re rushing to grocery stores to stock up on important items.
But before you drop that box of cereal or loaf of bread into your cart, it’s worth paying extra attention to the pricing label at the store.
A viral tweet posted Sunday by Suit Up Maine, a progressive group describing itself as seeking to build a “more informed and engaged electorate in Maine,” encourages shoppers to reconsider buying items showing the “WIC” label next to the price.
“People who use WIC to feed their kids can’t switch to another brand or kind of food,” reads their tweet. “If a store runs out of WIC-approved options, they will go home empty-handed.” The tweet has generated nearly 32,000 likes as of Tuesday morning.
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The WIC Program, or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. It was created to provide nutritious food to low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, as well as infants and children up to age 5.
According to a FAQ on the USDA website, during the 2018 fiscal year, about 6.87 million people received WIC benefits, with more than half of that total being children.
The USDA says participants receive checks or vouchers from state-run programs to purchase specific foods each month “designed to supplement their diets with specific nutrients.” Participating grocery stores will place WIC labels next to products to confirm they are approved under the program.
Some foods available under the program include infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried and canned beans/peas, and canned fish. Each state has its own set of guidelines for which foods are eligible, and are typically only eligible in certain quantities.
Several stores are adjusting their hours or closing to deep clean locations and restock empty shelves as the coronavirus crisis swells. Among them was retail giant Walmart, which said it was trimming hours at 24-hour stores.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.