Published: July 2022

Journal: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

Authors: Duffy EW, Vest DA, Davis CR, Hall MG, De Marco M, Ng SW, Taillie LS

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for fruits and vegetables increased by roughly USD 25/month/person. We sought to understand WIC participant perceptions of this change and barriers and facilitators to using the CVB. We conducted 10 virtual focus groups (5 rural, 5 urban/suburban) with WIC participants (n = 55) in North Carolina in March 2022. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed. We open-coded the content and used thematic analysis to uncover consistencies within and between sampled groups. Participants expressed favorable perceptions of the CVB increase and stated the pre-pandemic CVB amount was insufficient. Barriers to using the increased CVB were identifying WIC-approved fruits and vegetables in stores and insufficient supply of fruits and vegetables. Barriers were more pronounced in rural groups. Facilitators of CVB use were existing household preferences for fruits and vegetables and the variety of products that can be purchased with CVB relative to other components of the WIC food package. Participants felt the CVB increase allowed their families to eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. The CVB increase may improve fruit and vegetable intake, particularly if made permanent, but barriers to CVB and WIC benefit use may limit the potential impact.

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