An exploration of attitudes and perceptions of cash value vouchers in the Arizona Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

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In October, 2009, participants of the Arizona Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) began receiving monthly Cash Value Vouchers (CVV) worth between six and 10 dollars

In October, 2009, participants of the Arizona Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) began receiving monthly Cash Value Vouchers (CVV) worth between six and 10 dollars towards the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. Data from the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) showed CVV redemption rates in the first two years of the program were lower than the national average of 77% redemption. In response, the ADHS WIC Food List was expanded to also include canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. More recent data from ADHS suggest that redemption rates are improving, but variably exist among different WIC sub-populations. The purpose of this project was to identify themes related to the ease or difficulty of WIC CVV use amongst different categories of low-redeeming WIC participants. A total of 8 focus groups were conducted, four at a clinic in each of two Valley cities: Surprise and Mesa. Each of the four focus groups comprised one of four targeted WIC participant categories: pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, and children with participation ranging from 3-9 participants per group. Using the general inductive approach, recordings of the focus groups were transcribed, hand-coded and uploaded into qualitative analysis software resulting in four emergent themes including: interactions and shopping strategies, maximizing WIC value, redemption issues, and effect of rule change. Researchers identified twelve different subthemes related to the emergent theme of interactions and strategies to improve their experience, including economic considerations during redemption. Barriers related to interactions existed that made their purchase difficult, most notably anger from the cashier and other shoppers. However, participants made use of a number of strategies to facilitate WIC purchases or extract more value out of WIC benefits, such as pooling their CVV. Finally, it appears that the fruit and vegetable rule change was well received by those who were aware of the change. These data suggest a number of important avenues for future research, including verifying these themes are important within a larger, representative sample of Arizona WIC participants, and exploring strategies to minimize barriers identified by participants, such as use of electronic benefits transfer-style cards (EBT).