WIC benefits go electronic
eWIC cards save time for grocery clerks and WIC families
For more than four decades, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has provided access to nutritious foods and other nutrition-related services to eligible low-income women, infants and children. Last year, the program’s well-documented benefits helped improve the health and food security of 157,000 Coloradans.
The WIC shopping experience, however, has been time-consuming and arduous for participants and grocery clerks alike. Grocers had to check each grocery item against a list of WIC-approved foods, often contributing to longer checkout lines. WIC shoppers had to purchase staples in bulk, rather than as needed.
New technology now is streamlining the WIC shopping experience. In pilot programs that began in Pueblo and Northeast Colorado last spring, and a statewide rollout that began in Southeast Colorado in August, participants shop for WIC groceries by swiping a new eWIC card and entering a personal identification number (PIN).
“It's like a debit card,” said one participant. “[It] makes everything zip by without holding up the line and bringing unwanted attention to myself.”
Each WIC household receives one eWIC card, which electronically tracks the family’s food allowance, deducts food as it is purchased and adds food allocated each month. Families can track their WIC purchases in several ways, including checking their most recent cash register receipt.
Previously, the program required participants to get their entire month’s food allowance in a single transaction. The eWIC system allows them to pick up items as needed throughout the month, prompting this praise from a pilot program participant: “I love that I can buy milk as needed and not have to buy 5 gallons at the same time. And I don't have to worry about it going bad before it expires.”
WIC foods are purchased at 452 Colorado groceries and farm stands, and eWIC is earning kudos from retailers as well.
“From our point of view, it’s super simple,” said Jill Fiedler, store manager of the Holyoke Market. Fiedler said before her store began participating in eWIC, cashiers required additional training for WIC transactions. ... more