The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women’s, Infant, and Children (WIC) provides vital support for the food and nutrition security of pregnant women, new moms, babies, and young children by providing food assistance via an EBT card, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support.

While this support is critical for new parents and young children, the WIC program is out of date and does not reach everyone who is eligible. Kinship caregivers and Kentucky’s Latinx population face unique challenges  accessing WIC, such as language barriers and confusion around citizenship and custody requirements. 

To help address these barriers, Kentucky Youth Advocates (KYA) was recently awarded a WIC Community, Innovation, and Outreach (CIAO) grant. This grant, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and supported by the Food Research Action Center, will be working in 36 different communities across the country to address barriers to WIC and increase program awareness, participation, and retention.

KYA’s project will utilize several innovative outreach strategies to increase WIC awareness, enrollment, and retention among Kentucky’s Latinx population and kinship caregivers. This project will also draw on the strengths, knowledge, and partnership of existing community organizations and coalitions, including the KY Food Action Network, led by the Kentucky Equal Justice Center and Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, La Casita Center, Step by Step, Kinship Families Coalition of Kentucky, and the states four legal aid organizations, including Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, AppalRed Legal Aid, Legal Aid Society, and Kentucky Legal Aid.

The first part of the project will focus on identifying barriers and improving outreach efforts. We will start by conducting a landscape analysis to identify the barriers that Kentucky’s Latinx population and kinship caregivers face when applying for and utilizing WIC. We will utilize these findings, strategic community partnerships, and the lived experience of WIC participants to create tailored, translated outreach materials and plans that consider the unique needs of each population.

The second part of the project will focus on increasing the availability of low cost, legal advocacy for WIC participants. To do this, we will be partnering with the KY Equal Justice Center and the state’s four legal aid organizations to ensure that every legal aid has at least one attorney who is knowledgeable on WIC policy and law. These attorneys will be able to help families who are wrongfully denied WIC services because of confusion around citizenship status and custody arrangements. They will also assist in creating materials that clarify WIC’s legal requirements around citizenship and custody, helping mixed-status and kinship families feel more comfortable utilizing the program.  

We know that additional outreach efforts are needed to ensure that WIC can reach all families with young children. Through this project, we hope to create translated outreach plans and materials that can be used by advocates and family facing organizations across the state, as well as build the capacity of families, communities, and legal organizations to advocate on behalf of WIC families. 

If you have any questions about the WIC CIAO project, please contact Karena Cash at