Literature on food environments is expanding rapidly, yet a gap exists regarding the
role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program
for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on healthy food availability. In October 2009,
the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised the WIC food package, requiring certified
stores to stock fresh produce, whole grains, and lower-fat milk.
The goal of this study is to compare availability of foods in stores that are versus
those that are not WIC-certified before and after the policy change.
Store inventories were collected in 45 corner stores in Hartford CT with four inventories
each (180 total inventories) from January 2009 to January 2010. Data on availability
and variety of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and lower-fat milk were
recorded. Analyses were completed in 2012 using Fisher's exact test, chi-square, and
t-tests for descriptive analyses and multilevel models to measure food availability
longitudinally (significance at p<0.05).
Controlling for covariates, WIC-certified vendors carried more varieties of fresh
fruit (p<0.01); a greater proportion of lower-fat milk (p<0.01); and had greater availability of whole grain bread (p<0.01) and brown rice (p<0.05) than vendors without WIC authorization after the policy change. Conversely,
for all outcomes, stores without WIC authorization did not significantly increase
healthy food availability.
The 2009 WIC revisions increased availability of healthy foods among WIC-certified
vendors compared to those without WIC authorization in Hartford CT. For many residents
without a car, these changes can create a convenient shopping location for healthy
foods when a larger supermarket is not nearby.