Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 41
• WIC offices should target outreach to African American and Indigenous communities to boost enrollment among
eligible women. WIC participation has positive impacts on birth weight and survival for African American infants. The
Institute believes that participating Indigenous infants benefit in a similar way. Boosting support for increasing enrollment
of eligible African Americans and Indigenous women will improve health and reduce mortality among infants of color.
• USDA should conduct and publish more research on the impact of WIC on reducing maternal mortality among
African American, Indigenous, and Native Hawaiian mothers. Both experts and community members of color should
be equitably engaged and empowered to lead these efforts. For more on equitable engagement, see page 73.
Strengthen hiring, training, and accountability of caseworkers
In interviews, Bread for the World Institute learned that recipients encounter racism from WIC frontline staff, whether
through interpersonal behavior or office processes. Many interviewees reported being racially stereotyped by staff. One
interviewee reported an instance of cultural insensitivity where, as earlier mentioned, administrators insisted that Indigenous
women attend breastfeeding classes at the general WIC office rather
than at the local Tribal WIC office, although the former was further
BENEFITS OF A RACIALLY AND
away with staff who were not culturally competent in inter-tribal
ETHNIC DIVERSE WORKPLACE
traditions, and this plan did not address barriers such as lack of
transportation and child care.
Staff members who come from
Beyond the multiple complaints of racial discrimination, it appears
the communities WIC serves help
that staff have little to no accountability for adhering to changes made to
the office better understand the
improve racial equity, or for prioritizing the needs of recipients of color.
community’s needs, culture, and
sensitivities—allowing WIC to
strengthen its impact. For more on
USDA and the National WIC Association should:
how racial and ethnic diversity at
• Require WIC staff to have both anti-racism and implicit bias
all staff levels strengthens WIC,
training. Anti-racism training will enable people to relate to WIC
see Appendix 26.
participants without being judgmental or subscribing to stereotypes
(see glossary), but it is just a first step. People who work with
recipients need ongoing training in implicit bias. These requirements should apply to every WIC employee.
• Build in accountability. Training is not enough to break down institutional and interpersonal racism. Accountability
mechanisms must hold staff, including caseworkers, accountable. Each office should be required to publicize its formal
complaint process. It should be clear to participants that these complaints will be taken seriously and answered by more
senior staff. Doing so will help counter historical trauma (see glossary) from systems that have failed to be responsive to
communities of color, in addition to fostering trust and encouraging participation. All complaints should be investigated
and staff appropriately counseled and disciplined.
Applicants who are discriminated against should have some form of immediate recourse without fear of retaliation—
particularly retaliation in the form of being turned away from the program in the future.
• Take steps to ensure that current and/or former recipients are equitably represented among staff. Proportional
representation among staff of people who have faced hunger and food insecurity is critical to equitable implementation.
People with personal experience may be more likely to understand and empathize with participation barriers and less likely
to be judgmental. Moreover, WIC’s goal is to help people who face hunger, and hiring people with direct knowledge helps
ensure that the voices of food insecure people are heard and influences office culture and practices to be of greater service.
• Take steps to ensure that the overall staff racial and ethnic makeup reflects the racial and ethnic demographics
of the community. Staff should reflect the community in which they work—this is important in eliminating or reducing
language barriers, for example. Changing hiring practices to reflect racial equity should increase racial and ethnic diversity
at all levels of the program. The program can do this with the support of outside racial equity consultants.
A BREAD FOR THE WORLD INSTITUTE SPECIAL REPORT