As nutrition and public health professionals, we see the direct impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families in the 1,000-day window. In this time of incredible uncertainty, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides crucial nutrition and breastfeeding support for pregnant and postpartum women, babies, and young children to age five. Since March 2020, WIC providers around the country have adapted in record time to shift the way they serve families by transitioning from in-person to remote and safe services.
Families are not only dealing with the stress of the pandemic while caring for children but also struggling with job losses and lost income. Every day, new families turn to WIC for support, and today clinics have the option to onboard these families by phone or other remote means.
With the everyday concern families feel about risk of COVID-19 exposure, Congress granted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) new authority to waive in-person requirements for WIC providers through the end of September 2020. This flexibility has allowed clinics to continue providing vital nutrition, health, and social services to pregnant women and new parents, while keeping WIC families healthy and safe.
Despite the success of these measures, they are currently set to expire at the end of next month. As infection rates continue to climb and states adjust or modify their reopening plans, WIC providers need these flexibilities extended well into 2021. We should not rush to open in-person services until it is safe to do so for both WIC families and clinic staff.
1,000 Days urges Congress to extend WIC waiver authority until at least September 30, 2021. This will ensure that WIC continues to provide safe and critical support to help families have the healthiest first 1,000 days.