SAN ANTONIO — While shopping at the beginning of the month may not be anything out of the norm for many, for millions of families nationwide it's when their WIC benefits are replenished.
With so many families staying home due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and with the recent trend of panic-buying, some fear that families who benefit from WIC will not be able to shop for what they need. It's why local leaders are calling on people to not be mindful when shopping at the beginning of the month.
"It creates a tremendous challenge when they go to buy what we all need right now, and they can't find it because the rest of us have bought it up,” said Rep. Diego Bernal. "We just need to take care of one another. We need to look out for one another, especially parents of small children, single moms. You can look out for them by making sure they have what they need, and the best way we can do that right now is, one, not to buy WIC products, and two, not to hoard."
WIC – an acronym for the Texas Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children – is an assistance program for expectant mothers, new moms and young children.
Some grocers, including H-E-B and Walmart, have shortened their hours of operation and implemented quantity limits on certain necessities after people began panic-buying and hoarding products. April marks the first month shoppers have had to operate under new regulations.
“It creates a tremendous challenge when they go to buy what we all need right now and they can't find it because the rest of us have bought it up," Bernal said.
Bernal isn't alone. Many have taken to social media to encourage shoppers to either be cognizant of their purchases, or to not shop for for the next few days altogether.
"During your grocery shopping, please avoid items marked 'WIC,'" one Florida politician wrote last week. "These are the only things available to low-income mothers with young children. They can’t be substituted."
United Way of Ellis County tweeted, "Please avoid non-critical grocery store trips from April 1-3. WIC benefits come to low-income families at the 1st of the month, so let’s give these families space to shop & respect their needs by not buying items with a WIC shelf tag."
While Bernal said there can be many cases where someone is unable to find WIC-approved products, they should be able to buy a similar product that is not WIC-approved.
“I know that our instincts take care of ourselves and our own. And I get that. I feel it myself as a dad," he said. "But, at the same time, if I pay no regard to the rest of my neighbors, to the rest of the city, the rest of the state or the country or the world, then things are going to get worse."