WATCH: Levin Renews Call to Help Feed Mothers, Infants, and Children in COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI), Vice Chair of the House Education & Labor Committee, participated in a virtual briefing to examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child hunger, the federal response to date, and what more the federal government must do to ensure that children have sufficient food.
Rep. Levin renewed his call for the adoption of his bipartisan COVID-19 WIC Safety and Modernization Act introduced last month. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides food assistance and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five. This program has been a lifeline for many families across the country, especially single mothers and low-income households. Per MDHHS, one out of every two babies born in Michigan receives WIC benefits, and for every dollar spent by this program, more than three dollars in subsequent health care costs are saved. This bill would establish a taskforce to recommend updates to WIC that promote convenience, safety and equitable access to the program.
Watch Rep. Levin’s remarks here or read excerpts below:
“The need for WIC benefits has only increased during this time of economic uncertainty,” said Rep. Levin. “But what I want to talk about is the barrier families have faced during this pandemic: namely the lack of safe alternatives to the traditional in-store shopping in the WIC program, like online purchasing and curbside pickup and what’s available to the general public. Why it wouldn’t be available to these folks who need it most – I just don’t get it. I spoke to moms in my district who say getting to the grocery store is really hard during a pandemic in terms of when your safety, your kid’s safety.”
Rep. Levin asked Luis Guardia, President of the Food Research & Action Center to speak to the challenges facing the WIC program and the challenges families face without program flexibility, such as the ability to purchase groceries online. Mr. Guardia responded, “We’re very supportive of the WIC Safety and Modernization Act. Certainly, we have seen when some of the changes that have gone into play for WIC—to allow people to just do simple stuff like get there appointments remotely—was a game changer for people. They were able to keep their children safe, moms were able to stay safe. But as you mentioned, there’s still a lot to be done. It’s not even just what’s new and modern—it’s what’s standard now. It’s how commerce is done. We’ve seen the SNAP program make some advances to that, and we really think it’s important to have our friends at USDA put some of these advances forward for WIC as well.”
Rep. Levin concluded, "Mr. Chairman, I just think that as we work to modernize and scale up all these different nutrition programs to meet this very difficult moment, I just ask that we not forget about the families who rely on WIC.”
In May, Rep. Levin led a letter signed by 95 House members to USDA urging commonsense improvements to implement online, curbside or delivery options for families. After an unsatisfactory response from USDA, he introduced the bipartisan bill, H.R. 7933, the COVID-19 WIC Safety and Modernization Act with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).