Project: Report to Congress on WIC Program Cost-Containment Practices and Their Impacts
Award Year: 2002
Amount of award, fiscal 1999: $1,099,293.00 fiscal 2001: $376,937.00 fiscal 2002: $12,179.00
Institution: Abt Associates, Inc.
Principal Investigator: John Kirlin
Status: Completed
Detailed Objective: This study is Congressionally mandated by the William F. Goodling Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998. The study will assess the effects of cost-containment practices by State agencies on:
  • program participation;
  • access and availability of prescribed foods;
  • voucher redemption rates and actual food selections by participants;
  • participants on special diets or specific food allergies;
  • participant use and satisfaction of prescribed foods;
  • achievement of positive health outcomes; and
  • program costs.

The study provides the first systematic data on the balance struck by Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) state agencies between the goals of nutritional improvement and customer satisfaction and the need to make the most of available program funds. By reducing food costs, cost-containment practices have the potential to increase the number of eligible women, infants, and children served by WIC. Concerns have been raised, however, that overly restrictive policies may reduce participants' access to and consumption of prescribed foods, and may ultimately lead to reduced participation and adverse health impacts. In addition, some observers have questioned whether cost-containment practices save enough in food costs to offset their additional administrative costs.

The study will be conducted in six States selected to represent the three primary cost-containment practices: (1) vendor selection restrictions; (2) item selection restrictions; and (3) manufacturer rebate practices. Infant formula rebate practices are specifically excluded from this study. The research will draw on a number of data sources, including: State WIC information systems, a survey of WIC participants, focus groups with WIC dropouts, a survey of WIC food availability and prices, supermarket scanner data, and interviews with State and local WIC staff. A fixed-price contract was awarded to Abt Associates, Inc. in fiscal 1999 for a base cost of $1,099,293. In fiscal 2001 an option of $376,937 was exercised to conduct data analysis and develop a final report. In fiscal 2002, additional funding of $12,179 was provided to produce a stand alone executive summary. The final report to Congress was completed in February 2003.

Topic: Program Operations, WIC
Kaufman, P. "Balancing Food Costs with Nutrition Goals in WIC," Amber Waves, Vol. 1, Issue 4, (Web Update) USDA, ERS, September 2003, Updated October 2003.
Kaufman, P. Food Assistance Research Brief--Assessment of WIC Cost Containment Practices, Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 34-1, USDA, ERS, July 2003.
Kirlin, J., and N. Cole. Assessment of WIC Cost-Containment Practices: An Interim Report to Congress, E-FAN01-005, USDA, ERS, February 2001.
Kirlin, J., N. Cole, and C. Logan. Assessment of WIC Cost-Containment Practices: Executive Summary, Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 31, USDA, ERS, May 2003.
Kirlin, J., N. Cole, and C. Logan. Assessment of WIC Cost-Containment Practices: Final Report, E-FAN-03-005, USDA, ERS, February 2003.