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Helping People Understand WIC Eligibility

The challenge

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a food program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). WIC provides nutritional assistance, education, and screenings for pregnant people and families with young children who earn less than 185% of the poverty line. WIC is a federal grant given to U. S. states, territories, and Indian Tribal Organizations to manage benefit delivery. These 89 WIC entities currently manage a network of 1,900 local agencies and over 10,000 clinics.


WIC entities vary in their size, population coverage, and resources. This can cause inconsistencies in information and benefit delivery. Some WIC entities have no web presence while others have specialized websites and dedicated online tools. Some entities are working to increase participation by using new technologies, including online pre-screening forms.


WIC enrollment has been declining since 2011 for multiple and complex reasons. We focused on online eligibility information as one distinct part of increasing WIC enrollment. We explored the information people see online when they start their benefits journey, including what tools and resources they encounter when they research the WIC application process.

Our research

Our research is organized into three major evaluations:

  • A comprehensive content audit of online WIC eligibility information
  • A content audit of pre-screening tools
  • A heuristic evaluation of pre-screening eligibility tools specifically to measure ease of use
34 of 89 entities had issues with one or more eligibility web pages rendering correctly on mobile devices
74 of 89 entities had accessibility issues on one or more pages of their website
80% of eligibility pages had a high school or college reading level
The result

We compiled our findings into a comprehensive report, including recommendations on improving WIC eligibility information. The findings include significant issues with consistency, accessibility, security, and equity. Many of these findings are actionable now, while others will require additional support. Our report includes guidelines and actionable steps that WIC entities can take to improve their online content.


Every WIC entity benefits from a simple web presence with basic program information including a plain language list of eligibility requirements. WIC web pages are a way for participants to find information, get critical program updates, or take the next step on their benefits journey.


We conducted research in July and August of 2022, creating a snapshot in time of WIC eligibility across all 89 entities. We shared early findings from our research with the WIC community before we published this report. Recommendations from this report may already be in progress, done, or may no longer be relevant.

“This is a superb resource - I loved the depth shared on WIC, and how clearly you covered complex topics like accessibility, plain language, and technical errors."

- Program Director