Bill Would Improve Access to Health-Related and Nutrition Assistance
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden, Vice-Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, to improve access to nutrition assistance by providing temporary authorization during the application review process to a food vendor that is already approved to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) was moved out of Committee today.
“Tens of thousands of New Jersey residents face difficulty accessing affordable groceries and infant formula,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “During these tough economic times, the lengthy waiting period for WIC authorization imposes an undue burden on those struggling to put food on the table. By allowing WIC vendors to accept vouchers while their applications are being reviewed, this bill will eliminate barriers to access and ensure that residents in every neighborhood can obtain basic resources to support themselves and their families.”
The bill, S-3405, would require the WIC Services Unit in the Department of Health to temporarily authorize a food vendor that applies to participate in the WIC program at a particular site, if the vendor is already approved to operate at another site. Under provisions of the bill, the temporary authorization would be granted within 14 days of initial review of the site by the WIC Services Unit and would be valid until the vendor’s application is approved or disapproved.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a federal assistance program of the Food and Nutrition Service in the United States Department of Agriculture. The program provides nutrition and health-related assistance to low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. In 2012, over 172,000 New Jersey residents participated in the WIC program.
Participants of the WIC program typically receive a monthly voucher or electronic benefit transfer card that allows them to buy nutritious foods and infant formula at stores that have contracted with the government to accept these checks in exchange for merchandise. In addition to vouchers, WIC participants are offered free health and nutrition education classes, breast feeding support and equipment, and assistance in accessing other important services such as prenatal programs, immunization screenings, and health care referrals.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.