Understanding Food Choice and Perceived Value of the WIC Food Packages Among Low-income Caregivers
2017-10-27T00:00:00Z (GMT) by
ABSTRACT Objective: It has been suggested that the perceived value of food packages may affect whether participants remain in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The objective of this dissertation is to evaluate preferences and values of WIC foods and packages and understand what factors may influence these preferences and values. Design: Using a combined approach, surveys and individual in-depth interviews were conducted to measure and understand preferences for specific WIC foods, and how much WIC food packages are valued. Setting: 8 WIC clinics across the state of Illinois. Participants: Caregivers of infants enrolled in WIC for at least 3-6 months. Phenomenon of Interest: preferences for WIC foods and perceived value for WIC food packages as well as concepts, and experiences that influence these categories at the social, cultural, and environmental levels. Analysis: Frequencies were gathered to analyze survey data using SPSS. Interview transcripts were analyzed using Constant Comparative Analysis to identify emergent themes. Results: Participants value the food packages in WIC, but value the infant packages more. The autonomous nature of the cash value fruit and vegetable voucher has increased the value of the program for many participants; however, restrictions on food choice preferences (e.g. type of milk) detracts value from the program. Multiple factors influenced perceived value including but not limited to the cost of infant formula, social support for breastfeeding, circumstances of poverty, other program use, clinic issues, shopping difficulties, and stigma. Participants’ life-course experiences such as learning how to cook, taking responsibility for others, and circumstances of poverty impacted how they made food choices and valued WIC foods. Food preferences were determined early in life and negotiations of cost, health, convenience, and taste influenced the value of WIC foods. Time and autonomy over one’s schedule impacted prioritization of WIC. Conclusions and Implications: Many caregivers value WIC food packages, especially before the child turns one. Improvements are needed at the clinic, during shopping, and within the food packages themselves in order to increase perceived value. Providing more food choice would improve satisfaction with the program overall.