Texas WIC Food Package and Shopping
In response to steadily decreasing participation rates, the Texas Department of State Health Services’ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) called on SUMA Social Marketing to conduct qualitative and quantitative research to improve WIC clients’ experiences with the program’s food packages and shopping for approved foods. The purchase of healthy foods by its clients is central to WIC’s mission to improve the nutrition of participating families.
To gain a richer understanding of the challenges WIC clients face while shopping, SUMA sought feedback from grocery store staff, WIC clients, and WIC staff in 12 cities across the state through the following research components.
- Focus groups with WIC clients (16 groups, N = 122)
- Grocery shopping observations with WIC clients (N = 21) and clinic staff (N = 7)
- Quantitative survey of WIC clients (N = 250)
- One-on-one interviews with grocery store staff, including managers, trainers, and cashiers (N = 53)
- One-on-one interviews with WIC vendor liaisons (N = 7)
- Facilitated discussions with a cross-section of WIC staff (7 groups, N = 66)
- Clinic ethnography: a method of research focusing on the close observation of a particular practice or cultural setting (8 clinics)
- One-on-one interviews with WIC directors (N = 10)
- Best practices and background research
SUMA researchers also embedded themselves in the WIC client experience by observing grocery shopping trips to see firsthand the barriers that prevent clients from redeeming all of their allotted food benefits. Additionally, SUMA field tested a prototype for a WIC shopping app currently in development by Texas WIC to gauge WIC client interest and solicit design and feature feedback directly from the target user population.
Based on this extensive research, SUMA made specific recommendations to WIC to better train and educate grocery store staff on WIC-approved foods and policies, better train WIC staff on approved foods and store rules so they can explain them to participants, and better prepare WIC clients to shop for WIC-approved foods.