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Local nonprofit gets $500K to connect families with food assistance

Justin Sullivan
Getty Images

Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network received $530,300 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to connect more families to a federal food and nutrition program.

The program is designed to provide resources for women, infants and children, known as WIC benefits.

Hawaiʻi will be one of the first locations in the country to implement the Community Innovation and Outreach Project. It aims to increase the accessibility of food and health care benefits for low-income mothers, infants and children up to 5 years old.

The WIC benefits go toward nutrition education, breastfeeding support, health care referrals and more. Parents and legal guardians of all genders can apply for WIC benefits if they have a child 5 years old and under.

There are currently about 26,000 participants — including 5,700 pregnant and postpartum individuals, 5,800 infants up to 12 months, and 14,500 children under 5 years old.

According to HCAN, about 55% of eligible residents participated in the program in 2020.

Nicole Woo, director of research and economic policy with HCAN, said they are specifically looking to help communities who generally face hurdles with health care.

"There are barriers when you look at a lot of the outreach materials, websites, applications, many of them are coming from the federal government so these materials and applications are only in English," Woo said.

"Here in Hawaiʻi, we are looking at cultural and linguistic barriers — specifically Pacific Islanders, Filipino and Native Hawaiian communities. We believe that these groups are the most likely to be eligible for WIC," she said.

The WICShopper app lists food items that are eligible for WIC benefits. When users open the app, there are photos of each item. This removes language barriers, Woo said, but many foods are still not commonly consumed in Hawaiʻi.

Residents with EBT cards can also be eligible for an additional WIC card.

For more information, click here.

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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