The Role of Generic Price Look-Up Code in WIC Benefit Redemptions

Junzhou Zhang, Qi Zhang, Chuanyi Tang, Kayoung Park, Kristina Harrison, Patrick W. McLaughlin, Brian Stacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


One of the most significant recent changes in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated the conversion of the program to an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system by October 1, 2020. This mandate has led to some technical challenges and policy issues. Focusing on the adoption of a generic price look-up (PLU) code, an important EBT mechanism intended to facilitate the redemption of fresh produce, this research examines how different mapping approaches in using the generic PLU code are associated with WIC participants’ cash value benefit redemption. Using the redemption data of 121,021 Virginia WIC participants in 2015, the first year after the full implementation of the EBT system in Virginia, the authors identified three groups of WIC participants based on their exposure to the generic PLU code. Results show that WIC participants who had ever been exposed to the generic code tended to have a significantly higher fruit and vegetable redemption rate than those who had never experienced the generic code. The authors also conducted a qualitative study to provide insights regarding the potential mechanism underlying the hypothesized relationships. Relevant policy implications and future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-253
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • benefit redemption
  • electronic benefit transfer system
  • food well-being
  • nutrition assistance program


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