WIC Creates New, Online Chat with Live Humans to Replace “Wanda,” the Automated Chat-bot on Webpage

WIC Creates New, Online Chat with Live Humans to Replace “Wanda,” the Automated Chat-bot on Webpage

By Yehudit Garmaise

The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) hopes to make the program more “user-friendly” by creating a new, online chat that connects clients to human WIC staffers.

The new, live chat will replace “Wanda,” the automated “chat-bot” at the bottom-right of WIC’s webpage.

WIC’s new chat link to live staffers, “will simplify the enrollment processes and eliminate bureaucratic hurdles, so that struggling families have better access to healthy, nutritious foods," announced Gov. Kathy Hochul about the federally funded program that provides food, healthcare referrals, and nutritional information for low-income mothers who have children up to age 5.

The online chat function is New York’s response to WIC clients who requested easier ways to communicate with the program’s staff who can answer questions, explained Gov. Kathy Hochul.

NY’s State Department of Health is working with Code for America, a non-profit organization that creates technology and design, to create the new, live chat program. 

"The WIC program isn't used by nearly as many New Yorkers who are eligible for these food benefits,” Gov.  Hochul, who added that even many families who are already enrolled in the program do not take full advantage of the food resources the state provides. In 2020, for instance, 706,000 New Yorkers were eligible for WIC, but only 363,000 New Yorkers took advantage of the program.

Not only will clients’ live interactions help them to better access their benefits, but through the chat, clients will provide “invaluable feedback” that will help WIC continue to improve its customer service and ease the process of enrollment, the governor said. 

After gathering a substantial amount of client feedback through the new chat, NY’s Department of Health and Code for America will work to improve WIC’s services and distribution: based on clients’ requests. 

photo credit: Flickr

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