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County upgrades to new WIC card to support families in purchasing healthy food
September 10, 2019
SOLANO COUNTY – A new benefits card for families in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is now available for participants. The new card, which looks like a debit card, is more convenient and easier to use, ensuring that qualifying women who are pregnant or recently had a baby and their children have better access to the healthy foods provided by WIC. Solano County was selected as one of two pilot counties in the Bay Area issuing the new WIC Cards to all beneficiaries. Cards will start to become available across the rest of the state throughout the year.
A federally funded program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the state of California Department of Public Health, WIC provides food, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, and health services through local agencies to low-income families. Approximately 60 percent of all births to California residents are eligible for WIC. Families use benefits to purchase specific foods with key nutrients needed by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants, and young children.
WIC is not included in the public benefits considered in the "public charge" calculation. Using WIC does not influence whether a person, or their family members, is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes.
“Making sure that children and families have access to healthy food can be a challenge,” said Solano County Health Officer Dr. Bela Matyas. “For young children, lack of good nutrition can put them at risk for health problems, but programs like WIC bridge this gap by giving families access to better food choices. The new WIC card makes it easier for WIC families to purchase healthy food, and destigmatizes the grocery shopping experience.”
The WIC Card provides more flexible shopping and easier checkout in a more secure format. The card -- available now at the six WIC offices across the County - replaces the previous paper checks issued to families to purchase the same healthy food options. Families no longer need to buy groceries all at once, as required with the paper checks. Families may load benefits over the phone, rather than collecting them by mail or in person, and they may lock their benefits if a WIC Card is lost, stolen, or damaged. The new card comes with a WIC Phone App to check balance, appointments, stores, and eligibility of specific foods from a phone, matching the needs of busy families on-the-go. They can also locate clinics, find recipes that use WIC foods and access tips related to health.
“We are excited to provide these new WIC cards to Solano families as it will make the shopping experience faster and simpler,” said Chris Husing, Health Services Manager for the Solano County WIC Program. “As a pilot agency, we started issuing the WIC cards on June 3, 2019. We're proud to have successfully transitioned our participants to the new cards.”
The Solano County WIC Program currently serves over 7,500 participants. These participants will now be able to use their new WIC cards in WIC-authorized grocery stores and supermarkets. Staff have been preparing for the transition to the WIC Card with upgrades to information technology, training and participant outreach and education. Vendor liaison staff have contacted all participating supermarkets and grocery stores to ensure they are connected to information from the State of California about the new system and technology.
Those on the WIC program who were first to test the new system have positively reacted to the change, mentioning that the cards “feel like a debit card” and are “easy to use in the grocery store.”
Extensive research has found WIC to be a cost-effective investment that improves the nutrition and health of low-income families – leading to healthier infants, more breastfeeding, lower health care costs, higher academic achievement for students, and better outcomes for adults who benefited from WIC while they were young children.
Families with a gross income of no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level -- currently $47,638 annually for a family of four – are eligible for WIC. Applicants who already receive CalFresh, formerly known as “food stamps,” Medi-Cal, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance are automatically considered income-eligible.
Families interested in applying for WIC services should call (707) 784-8130. For more information, visit https://www.solanocounty.com/depts/ph/nsp/wic/default.asp.