AUSTIN (KXAN) — If finding what you need at the grocery store wasn’t hard enough, some of the most economically vulnerable among us are saying they’re having an even harder time finding food.
WIC funds come through at the beginning of the month, which is when people who rely on the resource tend to shop for specific items. If possible, other grocery shoppers should try to avoid grocery shopping until the second week of April.
Brittney Mosley has two little ones. She’s been using the WIC program ever since her 4-year-old was born.
“WIC stands for Women, Infant and Children,” said Brittney Mosley. “It’s not food stamps. I can’t switch it out for another item.”
The WIC program is a supplemental nutrition program, primarily for lower income women and their young children.
The Program provides money for things like formula, baby food, special dietary needs and supports overall nutrition. Right now, Mosley is running into her fair share of obstacles when using the program during a time when she needs it more than ever.
“I’m a server. I work in the food industry, I don’t have a job right now. This is helping me pay my bills,” said Mosley. “It’s kind of frustrating because I have to expose myself by going to the store and leaving empty-handed. Then, I have to go back the next day. I think I went to the grocery store four times last week, just to get cheese.”
The WIC approved items have a bright pink sticker on them. Mosley says many people are buying the pink sticker items, simply because they’re cheaper.
Grocery stores say they’re doing their part to keep shelves stocked. Walmart says they’ve placed limits on things like diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.
“We know communities are counting on us more than ever and we are determined to serve the broadest number of customers and ensure they, including WIC customers, have access to the key items they are looking for,” said Delia Garcia, Walmart Sr. Director of Communications.”Additionally, as we would normally do during periods of high demand, we are working through our best-in-class supply chain to replenish items as quickly as possible to help us meet the needs of our customers.”
H-E-B says WIC items are stocked overnight and throughout the day.
“We are in a strong in-stock position on our food items and we are not having issues with WIC approved items,” said Johnny Mojica, HEB Public Affairs Specialist.
According to the Texas Retailers Association, due to the COVID-19 increased volume, the USDA has issued new regulations to allow supermarkets to substitute products, if one or more of the WIC products has a temporary out of stock.
In addition, Texas WIC has expanded food access by adding more options for certain foods. For example, WIC customers can buy 2% milk now, rather than being limited to 1%. Other shoppers who don’t necessarily need those items, can do their part too.
“I think that’s my message,” said Mosley. “If there’s a creamy peanut butter up there, without a pink sticker, let me get that other creamy peanut butter instead.”
WIC shoppers also have the option to shop at WIC exclusive markets. There are several located around the Austin area. The store manager at a store on Research Boulevard in north Austin says they haven’t seen a shortage in product.