Angie Oesterly, Missouri WIC Director

Improving nutrition
Building a better WIC experience
Impact: statewide

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Improving Nutrition

Building a better WIC experience: Missouri WIC increased funding for fruits and vegetables, and will build a digital data dashboard

Fruits and vegetables are powerful foods. When classrooms and daycares began shutting their doors because of COVID-19, WIC leaders across the nation saw a need to provide supplemental nutrition to women, infants and children – and they needed to do it quickly.

“Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber which makes them an important part of a balanced diet for kids,” said Tricia Nilges, nutrition coordinator for the Cole County Health Department. “Eating plenty throughout the day, and in general, help keeps them healthy and helps reduce certain diseases.”

Missouri WIC was able to use COVID-19 funding to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables available to their participants through their eWIC cards. The Cash Value Benefit (CVB) was raised to provide more fresh fruit sand frozen fruits and vegetables at the rate of $25 for children, $44 for pregnant women, and $49 breastfeeding women per month. Previously, the CVB was only $9 for children and $11 for women per month.

“The CVB increase provided additional support for nutritious foods during a time when low income families were already struggling,” said Angie Oesterly, Missouri WIC director.

“With the cost of groceries, we have tons of participants come in and are so excited when it’s the higher amount,” Nilges said. “They feel like it’s beneficial for their families to be able to provide even more fruits and vegetables. Most of them say their kids really like them, it’s just the cost that can cause issues in trying to provide more of those throughout the day.”

Missouri WIC also applied for and received funding to build a digital data dashboard that will be used by WIC retailers, local agencies and the public to create broader awareness of participation data. The initiative will foster program awareness and identify areas of low participation through the creation of publicly-accessible dashboards that allow the user to interact with large volumes of WIC data in an easily-understandable format.

“The WIC data dashboard is going to be a digital dashboard that’s interactive,” said Oesterly. “Viewers will be able to go to the Missouri WIC website, and select criteria based on participation, demographics and benefit redemption.”

The hope, according to Oesterly, is that the data will open up additional opportunities for collaboration between Missouri WIC and local communities to provide better services to Missouri WIC participants, and ultimately assist local agencies create outreach activities.

Missouri WIC serves 80,000 participants every month supplemental foods, referrals to health services, nutrition education, and breastfeeding education and support. Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, infants and children under 5 may be eligible for WIC benefits. Fathers, guardians, grandparents and foster families can also apply for children in their care.

CVB increases are funded through September 2023, and the digital data dashboard is slated for completion by the summer of 2024.