WIC Recipients in the Retail Environment: A Qualitative Study Assessing Customer Experience and Satisfaction.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is an important intervention for prevention and treatment of obesity and food insecurity, but participation has dropped among eligible populations from 2009 to 2015. Program satisfaction is integral to participant retention, and the retail experience is a vital component of program satisfaction.


This article applies behavioral economics principles to explore the retail experience of WIC participants and ways in which it may be improved.


The authors designed and conducted semistructured interviews and focus groups with WIC participants.


A convenience sample of WIC participants aged 18 years and older were recruited through WIC clinics in Texas, North Carolina, Oregon, and Illinois (n=55, 27 participants from four focus groups and 28 individual interviews).

Statistical analysis conducted

Responses were analyzed qualitatively using principles of content analysis.


Challenges in identifying WIC-allowable items throughout the store as well as perceived stigmatization during the checkout process were the chief complaints. Study participants described a learning curve in successful use of WIC in retail environments over time. Study participants also reported acceptance of restrictions, such as a requirement to purchase the least expensive brand.


Dissatisfaction with the retail experience may lead to the underutilization of WIC benefits or program exit. Behavioral economics strategies that facilitate a better shopping experience, such as creating a section for WIC items in the store or improving in-store education, may improve the retail experience for WIC customers. Further research is needed to ensure such strategies are effective and do not contribute to stigma.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Chauvenet, C; De Marco, M; Barnes, C; Ammerman, AS

Published Date

  • March 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 119 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 416 - 424.e2

PubMed ID

  • 30502034

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2212-2672

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jand.2018.09.003


  • eng