Funded 2015 WIC White Papers

We received numerous outstanding proposals for our 2015 WIC Conceptual White Papers, which were reviewed by a diverse panel of experts. Based on our competitive review process, we are delighted to announce that we have selected 5 proposals for funding. Additionally, these teams have been invited to attend our one-day WIC Food-Cost Management Roundtable in Washington, DC in August 2015. The following proposals were selected for funding.


How can we use in-store promotions to decrease WIC program costs, maximize store profitability and improve participant satisfaction?

Lucia A. Leone, PhD; Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, PhD, MHA; Leonard Epstein, PhD; Samina Raja, PhD

University of Buffalo

This paper will aim to review the current literature to identify and determine the potential success of marketing and promotional strategies that achieve a triple bottom line. The team proposes using principals of behavioral economics to entice vendors to make promotional changes that will make lower-cost, higher-margin food packages the easy choice for consumers. To this end, the paper will include key interviews, focus groups, and case studies to inform appropriate promotional strategies.


Redesign Choice Architecture: Nudging WIC Participants to Lower-Priced Brands

Qi (Harry) Zhang, PhD; Michael Welch, PhD; Chuanyi Tang, PhD

Old Dominion University

This paper will establish a systematic approach to divert WIC participants selecting higher-priced brands over lower-priced brands based on the Stimulus-Organism-Response (S-O-R) paradigm in marketing and the choice architecture theory in behavioral economics. This paper will examine the WIC participants’ brand choice and identify the attributes that influence this decision. The team will propose innovative and promising tools to redesign the choice architecture to nudge WIC-P to purchase food items with lower-priced brands.


Behavioral Economics and Cost Reductions in the WIC Program

Andrew S. Hanks, PhD; Carolyn Gunther, PhD; Rob Scharff, PhD; Leslie Stoel, PhD

Ohio State University

This paper will outline three potential strategies that leverage principles in behavioral economics to reduce costs in the current Women, Infant, Children (WIC) program. These strategies are expected to tap into behavioral biases of WIC beneficiaries and WIC retailers to boost program effectiveness and maintain revenues for WIC retailers. In addition, this paper will utilize shopping data to study WIC shopper price sensitivity, both before and after the introduction of electronic benefit transfer cards (EBT) in Ohio. This data analysis will provide insights into behaviors of WIC beneficiaries useful for identifying additional cost-saving interventions.


Understanding WIC purchasing decisions

Elizabeth Racine, PhD

University of North Carolina-Charlotte

This proposal will conduct a literature review to identify factors associated with food choice among lower-income families and to identify behavioral economic interventions associated with food choice that may be applicable to the WIC population. Using this information, a series of focus groups with guardians who are currently or recently enrolled in the WIC program will be conducted. The primary purpose of the focus groups is to understand the guardians’ nutrition knowledge and the challenges they experience when adopting healthy eating practices at home.


Entry of Vendors, Cost Containment, and Participant Access in the Women, Infants, and Children Program

Richard J. Sexton, PhD; Tina Saitone, PhD; Patrick McLaughlin, PhD

University of California, Davis

This paper will examine the trade-off between cost containment and access across all three players using the California WIC Program as a case study. This paper will assess the impact that the FNS moratorium on vendor entry has had on access using precise data on each food benefit transaction completed in the California WIC Program. Using these data, the team will construct three measures of retailer and participant behavior directly relevant to the impact of new vendor entry on access and cost containment to the Program. Then, the team will relate their findings to the effectiveness of standing federal WIC policy and implications for behavioral economic approaches to food assistance and access in the WIC Program.