Governor Hochul announces initiative to improve access to food benefits for women, infants and children

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a new customer feedback initiative to better understand the challenges New Yorkers face when enrolling in the Women’s, Infants and Children’s Nutritional Assistance Program, also known as WIC. announced as part of 2023 State State Addressthe New York State Department of Health american code Pilot a live online chat program to help agents collect client feedback to improve WIC programs and enrollments statewide.

“Despite being an important resource for struggling families, the WIC program is not used by many New Yorkers who are eligible for these food benefits and by many families who are already enrolled in the program. yeah.Governor Hochul said. “This initiative will help remove bureaucratic hurdles, simplify the registration process, and identify ways to implement new technologies so that struggling families can access healthy, nutritious food. will be more readily available.”

First, Code for America will help implement a live online chat feature to replace the Department of Health’s automated chat bot. WIC page, connecting individuals to WIC staff for live interaction. Live interactions are an effective way to guide applicants through the process, guide registrants through benefits, and provide a valuable source of feedback. Combined with client interviews and other qualitative and quantitative research methods to better understand the challenges of registering and using WIC.

In phase two of the project, the Department of Health will work with Code for America to implement improvements to the WIC program based on feedback collected. This partnership will allow government agencies to identify what is preventing an eligible family member from participating in and getting the most out of the program and use that information to improve her delivery of WIC services. will be

Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said: “By gathering input from families participating in the WIC program, we will improve the customer experience and ensure that New York families have easy access to the nutritious foods their children need for healthy growth and development. By working with Code for America to test live chat.Using other techniques for collecting information will increase participation and make the program more accessible to those who rely on WIC. We can find ways to make it easier to use.”

The WIC program provides federal funding to states for supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, lactating, and non-lactating postpartum women. It also applies to her infants and children up to the age of 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk. The Department of Health was one of four institutions selected to participate in Code for America’s Safety Net Innovation Lab’s second cohort.

Nationwide, about half of eligible families in WIC participate in the program, and families enrolled in the program do not consistently access food benefits.According to data compiled this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, approximately 706,000 New Yorkers qualified for WIC in 2020but only 363,000 people entered the program.

Food insecurity is consistently associated with poor health outcomes in children, including poor overall health, acute and chronic health problems, and limited access to health care. Participation in WIC is associated with healthy deliveries, improved birth weight, reduced infant mortality, improved infant nutrition, more nutritious diets, improved access to primary and preventive care, and improved cognitive development in children. related to improvement. result.

The initiative with Code for America is part of Governor Ho-Chol’s plan to make government work better for New Yorkers by changing the way services and benefits are accessed. Significant technology enhancements are currently being implemented to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and improve access. Reduce call waiting time. Use electronic signature technology. Launch One Identity to improve how residents interact with select government agencies online. Modernize his website and applications for state agencies to improve user experience.

Code for America CEO Amanda Renteria said: “Code for America works with government partners and community organizations with the goal of creating a human-centered safety net. We are taking big steps towards systemic change in how we benefit from food aid, health care and other basic needs.”

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