The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced the RFA (Request for Applications) process for Pennsylvania’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is now open. This competitive bidding process will be used to identify the local agencies that will provide nutrition assessment, education, referral, food prescription and outreach activities for the WIC program.
“The WIC program makes a measurable difference in the health of more than 226,000 women, infants and children in our state each month,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “The department has held sole source agreements with local agency providers across the state to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to the nutritional services and resources they need. The competitive bidding process will make sure the program can continue to provide these services, allow opportunities for vendors interested in providing services, and extend services to additional residents across the state.”
Sole source agreements were established because of the extensive infrastructure required to stand up and operationalize providers. However, technological advances over the past 10 years, such as the installation of 4G cellular connectivity to replace hard-wired inter- and intranet service, have brought these costs in line with other behavior and/or social services that have used the competitive bid process in the past. Additionally, our federal funder, the USDA, advised the department to bid this service out. Sole source agreements are not preferred for WIC grants and existing agreements will end in September 2021.
The Request for Information (RFI), the first phase in the process, was initiated in May of 2019 and was completed in December of that same year. During that time, stakeholder input was collected statewide and incorporated into the RFA document during the RFA process that started in January 2020. The RFA posted today is set to conclude by August 2021 and all services should be transferred to the new providers by October 2021. Even though transition activities may be completed more quickly, providers will be given 12 months to accomplish the task and the effective date for new grant agreements with the bid awardees will be October 1, 2022.
This year, Pennsylvania WIC celebrated 46 years of providing services to families across the commonwealth and made numerous technological and service advancements, including:
- Successfully migrating from paper checks to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) before the September 30, 2020 mandate;
- Simultaneously replacing the program’s Management Information System (MIS);
- Introducing a tele-health service model to support social distancing in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Achieving candidacy status for Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accreditation and approval to schedule the initial intern class to prepare for the professional dietetic exam; and
- Successfully establishing and transitioning to statewide management through field offices and telework methodology.
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