USDA Announces WIC National Strategy, $29M in Supporting Funding Opportunities to Strengthen WIC Workforce

Saturday, 25 May 2024 13:13

USDA Announces WIC National Strategy, $29M in Supporting Funding Opportunities to Strengthen WIC Workforce Featured

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WASHINGTON, May 23, 2024 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced a new Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Workforce National Strategy to strengthen the WIC workforce, along with more than $29 million in supporting funding opportunities.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, WIC is widely regarded as one of the nation’s most effective public health programs. WIC serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. 

USDA is investing in WIC outreach, innovation and modernization to ensure that the program meets the needs of today’s busy families given only about half of all eligible women, infants and children participate in WIC. The overall WIC modernization goals focus on enrolling all eligible families, making WIC attractive so that families stay on the entire time they’re eligible, making shopping simple and convenient so that families can use all their benefits, and making WIC equitable and accessible for all.

As part of the modernization efforts, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partnered to modernize the WIC workforce to address the various challenges to maintaining effective, relevant and innovative WIC programming. Together, the agencies laid out the critical challenges of declining program participation and retention; lack of diversity within the WIC workforce to reflect the families they serve; and the need for more integration of diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility principles and practices into WIC operations and workforce development activities.

“We are proud to be a part of these monumental modernization efforts that build on WIC’s long history of offering high-quality, in-person services,” said Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics and USDA’s Chief Scientist. “These latest recommendations and strategies will result in an enhanced workforce that better reflects the program’s participants and supports USDA’s priority of advancing racial justice, equity and opportunity.” 

FNS and NIFA established a cooperative agreement with the University of Minnesota Extension to identify evidence-based strategies to inform the design of a five-year plan to strengthen the WIC workforce. To best support the WIC workforce to serve its diverse participants, the findings from the formative research were integrated to develop four broad recommendation areas as well as actionable strategies.

The recommendations include the following:

  • Conduct a formalized WIC job study and market analysis;
  • Develop long-term learning opportunities for frontline staff, supervisors and managers;
  • Develop continuous and systematic ways to understand the WIC workforce perspective on core workforce engagement issues; and
  • Study and explore how regulations, policies and guidance affect quality WIC services delivered to diverse families.

If implemented over the next five years, these strategies will help strengthen WIC, a program that is evolving to meet the changing needs of families. It will support the WIC workforce, bolstering the ability to hire and retain the best talent; it aims to improve reach to populations that are eligible for WIC but not yet enrolled, and will enhance the likelihood that WIC participants adopt nutrition education and breastfeeding support recommendations to support healthy moms, babies and young children.

In support of the WIC Workforce National Strategy, USDA NIFA has published two new funding opportunities open now to eligible applicants. The WIC Workforce Development Implementation Projects grant program, funded at approximately $19,365,790, seeks projects that will increase the diversity and cultural competency of the WIC workforce and address barriers to recruitment and retention of WIC staff. Projects will develop outreach plans for engaging with WIC State and local agencies, Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs) and territories, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutes (MSIs) and/or underserved communities.  

A second funding opportunity is available for a WIC Workforce Evaluation and Technical Assistance Center Cooperative Agreement. The amount available is approximately $10 million for a Cooperative Agreement for a center to provide technical assistance and evaluation oversight to implementation projects that are funded to respond to the National Strategy. 

The Requests for Applications (RFAs) are open to Land-grant Universities, tribal organizations, non-profit organizations and others. Full eligibility requirements are available in the RFAs. Applications are due July 1.

These WIC workforce efforts are aligned with the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy pillar to better integrate nutrition and health, released in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in September 2022.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

 

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

 

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension, and promotes  transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

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