Objective: The present study assessed the impact of the 2009 food packages mandated by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on perceived sales, product selection and stocking habits of small, WIC-authorized food stores.
Design: A cross-sectional study involving in-depth interviews with store managers/owners.
Setting: Small, WIC-authorized food stores in eight major cities in the USA.
Subjects: Fifty-two store managers/owners who had at least 1 year of experience in the store prior to study participation.
Results: The WIC-approved food products (fresh, canned and frozen fruits; fresh, canned and frozen vegetables; wholegrain/whole-wheat bread; white corn/whole-wheat tortillas; brown rice; lower-fat milk (<2 %)) were acquired in multiple ways, although acquisition generally occurred 1-2 times/week. Factors such as customer requests (87 %), refrigerator/freezer availability (65 %) and profitability (71 %) were rated as very important when making stocking decisions. Most managers/owners perceived increases in sales of new WIC-approved foods including those considered most profitable (wholegrain/whole-wheat bread (89 %), lower-fat milk (89 %), white corn/whole wheat tortillas (54 %)), but perceived no changes in sales of processed fruits and vegetables. Supply mechanisms and frequency of supply acquisition were only moderately associated with perceived sales increases.
Conclusions: Regardless of type or frequency of supply acquisition, perceived increases in sales provided some evidence for the potential sustainability of these WIC policy efforts and translation of this policy-based strategy to other health promotion efforts aimed at improving healthy food access in underserved communities.