Food Security

Evaluating the Impact of Chicago WIC Food and Nutrition Centers on Participation and Health

Catholic Charities Chicago Logo

Faculty Affiliates: William Evans, James Sullivan, Craig Gundersen

Location: ChicagoPartners: Catholic Charities Chicago, Illinois Department of Human Services

Policy Issue: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides healthcare and nutrition for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five. Over 50,000 clients are served each year in Cook County, Illinois and can redeem their coupons at supermarkets, pharmacies, and other approved stores in Chicago. Redemption criteria for WIC is highly specific and can be difficult to navigate when eligible products and quantities are not marked.

Program Description: Catholic Charities of Chicago (CCC) runs 16 WIC stores where program participants can redeem their WIC benefits while also receiving healthcare check-ups and participating in education programs. The stores only accept WIC coupons as payment methods, and therefore only sell WIC-approved items. Products are clearly marked to avoid any complication with redemption quantities.

Evaluation: LEO has found that the location of the centers in Chicago has a significant impact on benefit redemption patterns and program participation levels of low income mothers. Using this information, CCC has been able to better understand how to better serve the most vulnerable communities. LEO is designing an RCT evaluation with CCC to determine the effects of a light-touch intervention, such as text message reminders, on WIC registration and redemption rates.

LEO Co-founder Bill Evans describes the project: