Prices of reduced-fat milk in WIC transactions vary by store type

A chart showing estimated average difference in prices of reduced-fat milk in WIC transactions compared to supercenters, by store type and State

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides benefits for specific types and quantities of foods to low-income pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding women; infants; and children up to age 5. Many State WIC agencies authorize a variety of large and small stores to redeem WIC benefits, in part to ensure geographic access for WIC participants. A recent ERS study examined prices paid in WIC transactions in four States for reduced-fat milk, one of the most widely redeemed foods in the program. Findings from the two States with substantial numbers of both small and large WIC-authorized stores show that reduced-fat milk WIC prices varied substantially across store types in counter intuitive ways. After controlling for store size and rurality, chain supermarkets/grocery stores in both States had significantly lower reduced-fat milk prices than supercenters (e.g., Target or Walmart; 35 to 79 cents per gallon lower) which are often known for low prices. While small and nontraditional food stores tended to have higher prices for reduced-fat milk, reduced-fat milk prices were lower in WIC-authorized pharmacies and discount stores in the Midwest State. Reduced-fat milk prices at small and nontraditional food stores versus supercenters ranged widely from 23 cents less to 63 cents more. The data for this chart are from the ERS report Price Variability Across Food Product and Vendor Type in Food Benefit Redemptions under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC), released July 31, 2018.

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