Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA-6) introduced the WIC Healthy Beginnings Act, a bipartisan bill to encourage competition, reduce costs, and improve the quality of infant formula options available through the state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs with an online database.
The bill is co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI-10), Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, M.D. (R-IA-2), and Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI-9). Companion bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The legislation is endorsed by the National WIC Association, the Infant Nutrition Council of America, National Milk Producers Federation, and March of Dimes.
“Like so many women in America, I struggled to get pregnant. My son, Jordan, was a blessing for me and for my family, and I remember how special it was to care for my infant son,” said McBath. “Mothers, infants, and families across this country rely on the resources, education, and support that WIC provides, and high-quality nutrition for children is one of the most important steps we can take to set our children up for future success. Our bill will improve the transparency, quality, and competition of the formula contracts available under WIC, and I thank my colleagues for their collaboration as we work to advance infant nutrition, reduce costs, and improve outcomes.”
“WIC provides many women with vital resources and assistance after pregnancy. However, the current process utilized by WIC makes it hard for smaller manufacturers to compete for contracts,” said McClain. “The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act will save the American taxpayers money while also providing the children of America with higher quality nutrition. I am proud to cosponsor this bill.”
“Improving the transparency and availability of WIC contracts will give mothers the best options available to feed their children. Making this contract data readily available will increase competition and give better options to mothers,” said Miller-Meeks. “I am proud to join this bicameral and bipartisan group to ensure the health and well-being of America’s families.”
“Making improvements to WIC--during the pandemic and beyond--has been a top priority of mine in Congress, and I'm proud to support my friend Congresswoman Lucy McBath's important bill,” said Levin, author of the bipartisan WIC Safety and Modernization law. “Experts agree that 'fed is best,' and encouraging breastfeeding while providing high-quality, iron-fortified infant formula will help the WIC program and the mothers and babies who depend on it.”
“Our bipartisan legislation will lead to improved access to infant formula for America’s mothers and their children as well as level the playing field for small and large formula manufacturers,” said Senator Marshall. “I’m proud to partner with my colleagues in the House to streamline the WIC public-private partnership to more closely align with regular contracting norms to ensure transparency and access to high quality and safe product.”
“Bringing the WIC program into the 21st century will help make quality infant formula more accessible than ever before,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act would encourage competition and lower costs, removing barriers that keep families from putting food on the table. I am proud to lead this bill in the Senate to help ensure all infants have a healthy start.”
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides half of infants born in the U.S. with access to breastfeeding education and counseling and supplemental nutritious food. While WIC is primarily a breastfeeding promotion program, WIC does offer iron-fortified infant formula for partially breastfed and fully formula-fed infants. Leading health experts and federal agencies recommend Iron-fortified infant formula as an appropriate substitute when breast milk is not an option. WIC participants obtain access to infant formula through the state WIC agency’s competitive bidding process.
The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act aims to improve the WIC public-private partnership to more closely align with regular contracting norms to ensure transparency and access to high quality and safe products. Specifically, this bipartisan legislation will establish a federal public notice for all open WIC infant formula contracts that will increase competitive applications for state WIC agencies and improve transparency infant formula manufacturers to compete.
This act would require WIC State agencies to submit an open solicitation description to USDA, which will use this information to maintain a “fully searchable database” that includes:
- the title of the bid solicitation and the WIC State agency administering the bid solicitation;
- the website hyperlink and other information needed for the purpose of submitting a bid to the State agency in response to a bid solicitation;
- the contact information and website hyperlink for the State agency administering the bid solicitation for the purpose of gathering additional information relating to the bid solicitation; and
- the period during which bids are accepted or the due date for bids, as applicable, under the bid solicitation.