(Photo: USDA.gov)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many Americans are flocking to their local grocery stores to stock up on items they deem necessary amid uncertainty and a national emergency. 

While grabbing almond milk, microwave popcorn, and canned soup, the average shopper is likely not paying attention to the details on the store’s shelf tags. Doing so, however, could be at the expense of more vulnerable populations across the country. 

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A viral tweet shared on by Suit Up Maine highlights how panic shopping can leave WIC users at risk of going without. According to their Twitter bio, the platform represents a progressive group “working to create an informed electorate to defeat Trump and Susan Collins in 2020.” 

The tweet displays a close-up photo of a grocery store pricing label that designates items approved for purchase with WIC, a federal assistance program that supplements nutritional foods for low-income families.

“When stocking up for #SocialDistancing, if an item has a WIC symbol beside the price, get something else,” the tweet reads. “People who use WIC to feed their kids can’t switch to another brand or kind of food. If a store runs out of WIC-approved options, they will go home empty-handed.”

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As of Tuesday afternoon, the tweet has been retweeted nearly 25,000 times and garnered over 34,000 likes.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports during the first five months of the 2019 fiscal year, states reported monthly participation in the program averaged 6.4 million users. WIC participants either receive checks, vouchers or electronic benefit cards with a monthly allowance to purchase designated products.

Priority to qualify for WIC is given to pregnant women, breastfeeding women and infants at nutritional risk resulting from serious medical problems. Infants up to six months old whose mother participated in WIC or could have participated in WIC, as well as children up to the age of five at nutritional risk due to health problems are also given priority.

WIC can be used to purchase baby cereal, fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, peanut butter, tofu, bread, and other essentials.