New York Governor Kathy Hochul has announced a new initiative to better increase food benefit access to women, infants and children. The new client feedback initiative will look towards improving the understanding of the challenges New Yorkers face enrolling in the Supplemental Nutrition Program, also known as WIC.
Part of the governors 2023 State of the State address earlier this year, the NYS Department of Health will now partner with Code for America to pilot a live, online chat program which will help the agency gather feedback to improve on the WIC program and enrollment throughout the state.
“Despite being a critical resource for struggling families, the WIC program isn’t used by nearly as many New Yorkers who are eligible for these food benefits or by many families who are already enrolled in the program,” Governor Hochul said. “This initiative will help us identify ways to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles, simplify the enrollment processes and implement new technology so that struggling families have better access to healthy, nutritious foods.
Code for America will help implement the live chat function to replace the current DOH automated chat bot that appears on the agency’s WIC page. The live chat function will connect individuals to a WIC staffer for a live interaction instead of an automated response.
With a live chat function, applicants will be better guided in the process and enrolled with using their benefits available to them.
For the second phase of the project, the DOH will then work with Code for America to implement improvements to the WIC program to enhance the customer experience and make it easier for families to access the nutritious foods required for healthy growth and development of children.