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A delegation of California Grocers Association retail grocer members, along with CGA staff, traveled to the nation’s capital in late January hoping to resolve a moratorium on applying for new WIC licenses.
The group met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon, policy aides to First Lady Michelle Obama and several members of Congress.
According to the association, California grocers have faced the indefinite moratorium for just under two years. The purpose of the Washington D.C. visit was twofold: to achieve short term interim measures that will allow responsible vendors to apply for waivers and obtain WIC licenses; and to help regulators identify long-term solutions that will allow the moratorium to be lifted.
While CGA has worked closely to assist the California Department of Public Health – WIC Program in its efforts to address serious oversight challenges that led to the moratorium, the USDA is the only one at this point that has the authority to authorize individual vendor applications or approve California’s action plan and lift the indefinite moratorium.
CGA said it made headway with the USDA in terms of outlining the need for individual store location exemptions that take into account not merely “access” for WIC participants but also the quality and cost of that access.
In addition, grocery company representatives were able to discuss the community impacts of store closings when new owners are unable to obtain a WIC license. The group also received a better outline of what the USDA is looking for from California in terms of affirmative actions that will ultimately help bring an end to the ongoing moratorium.
CGA said it will continue to prioritize California’s WIC challenges and redouble efforts to help the State and Federal governments address the significant issues identified in California.