Last March, Warren County’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children moved from a paper food voucher system to one that utilizes electronic benefits transfer cards.
A little over a year later, local WIC personnel rate the electronic benefits system as successful, providing greater ease of use for both clients and staff.
According to its website, the WIC program, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, assists low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant and postpartum women, infants up to their first birthday and children up to their fifth birthday. Benefits allow clients to purchase such items as bread, cereals, milk, eggs, meat, poultry, beans, juices, vegetables, fruit, formula for infants and cereal for children.
Elizabeth Tetley, director of the WIC program at Warren County Health Department, said that in 2018, the local WIC office provided more than $90,000 in benefits to clients who made 4,282 purchases.
“The tremendous impact that this program makes on the community is unparalleled,” she said.
Under the new system, clients still come to the WIC office in Warrenton for an initial appointment and assessment of needs so that a benefit package can be assigned. In the past, clients received paper vouchers. Now, benefits are uploaded to an EBT card.
Tetley said that, in the past, clients had to use all of their paper vouchers at one time. That meant that if benefits included 5 gallons of milk for one month, clients had to buy all of their milk at once and hope it did not spoil before the month ended.
With the electronic benefits system, clients can purchase foods as they need them.
Clients now come to the WIC office twice a year for nutrition counseling, compared with four times a year in the past.
Tetley said that the electronic benefits system allows doctors to fax a client’s nutritional prescription to the WIC office, which will update the client’s EBT card and notify her of the changes.
She added that when the state WIC office updates the benefits it offers, the Warren County WIC office is able to issue the new benefits to clients quickly and efficiently with the electronic benefits system.
The local WIC staff is especially proud of the BNFT app for smartphones which provides alerts when benefits are loaded and redeemed. The app allows clients to view their current benefit balance when needed and to scan items in store to see whether they are covered in their benefits package.
Two local WIC clients described how the program has helped their families.
“WIC helps me save money while providing me with nutritious foods that will help with my baby’s growth,” said Mallory Richardson, client of four months.
LaDayzha Hicks, client since 2017, said she loved the services available through the electronic benefits system.
“I love the BNFT app because everything I need (balance/UPC scanner) is on my phone,” she said.
For Tetley, the electronic benefits system represents an improvement to an existing program that is already great.
“Overall, it is a stark improvement for the WIC program, not only for us in Warren County, but statewide,” she said.
For more information about WIC, call 252-257-2116 or visit the local office at the Warren County Health Department, 544 W. Ridgeway St., Warrenton.