HomeCoronavirus live updates: Global cases edge toward a million as pandemic surges in U.S., Italy, FranceTechCoronavirus live updates: Global cases edge toward a million as pandemic surges in U.S., Italy, France

Coronavirus live updates: Global cases edge toward a million as pandemic surges in U.S., Italy, France

As the coronavirus pandemic empties supermarket shelves and leaves many Americans without an income, some advocates and officials are warning shoppers to check the labels on their grocery purchase — or avoid the supermarket entirely, especially this week.

Several federal assistance programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), distribute benefits to low-income families at the beginning of each month.

That means that supermarkets could be especially packed this week, they say, as some of the neediest shoppers try and stock up on food items covered under WIC, like cereal, eggs and beans and other staples.

But strict rules limit kinds of groceries, brands and even package sizes can be bought through the program, which distributes checks, cards and vouchers to low-income mothers who are pregnant and breastfeeding or parents of children under age 5. If the brand for a certain item is sold out at a supermarket, WIC users will not be able to purchase that type of food entirely.

Posts on social media in recent days have encouraged other shoppers to avoid buying WIC-eligible groceries, which are marked by a label on supermarket shelves underneath the product.

A USDA spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that individual states can modify their WIC restrictions as long as they meet federal standards, while legislation passed in Congress allows them to submit waiver requests to include even more grocery options.

Others, however, have cautioned that other safety-net programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, stagger benefits throughout the month based on factors like case numbers or a recipient’s birthdate or last name.

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