Testimony of Hannah Francis, Food Security and Health Program Coordinator, before the Committee on Health

March 2, 2023
Person Testifying: Hannah Francis
Title: Food Security and Health Program Coordinator, DC Action
Testimony Heard By: Department of Health
Type of Hearing: Performance Oversight Hearing

March 2, 2023

Hello, Chair Henderson and members of the Committee on Health. Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee on Health as it reviews the performance of the Department of Health. My name is Hannah Francis. I am the Food Security and Health Program Coordinator for DC Action.

DC Action uses research, data, and a racial equity lens to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. Our collaborative advocacy initiatives bring the power of young people and all residents to raise their voices to create change. We are also the home of DC KIDS COUNT, an online resource that tracks key indicators of child and youth well-being.

Chair Henderson, we want to thank the Department of Health for the quick rollout of eWIC this past year. The transition to eWIC has enabled families to have greater ease of use and flexibility, as well as a reduction in stigma. This shift has been monumental for the families who rely on it. We encourage further efforts to modernize the WIC program and opt into waivers to modernize WIC through building or enhancing remote services, which have been proven beneficial to families who may face barriers to accessing in-person services.

Improving WIC coverage is proven to reduce racial disparities in maternal and child health that persist in the District. Therefore it should be a priority to reduce the WIC eligible-but-not-enrolled gap and to support families through a child’s fifth birthday. WIC is an important tool to reduce intergenerational health and food inequities in the city. Yet only 57% of eligible individuals were enrolled between 2020 and 2021.

As WIC transitions to the new Community of Hope clinic, we hope to see departmental action to ensure that all families who have relied on the Howard University sites are fully transitioned to Community of Hope or another organization that supports WIC administration. We also ask that the new Community of Hope clinic receives the support to be fully staffed and operational and that measures are taken to reach community members who will benefit from the new locations.

Further, we encourage the DC Council to support the USDA’s proposed changes to allow online transactions for WIC by submitting public comments through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. This proposal would improve the WIC shopping experience while increasing equity and access to nutritious foods for WIC participants, thus positively impacting nutrition security.

Thank you again for the opportunity to provide testimony. I am attaching our full policy snapshot with further details on these recommendations. Should you or the Committee staff have any questions or need clarification, I can be reached at hfrancis@dckids.org.