More efficient and effective “eWIC” system to benefit participants and vendors
The state Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is transitioning to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, replacing the paper food checks used at grocery stores with a swipe card similar to a credit or debit card, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) announced today.
The new system, called “eWIC,” allows families to continue to receive the same foods, nutrition education and support. All participants are seen routinely by trained WIC Nutrition professionals who provide prescribed nutritious foods, information on healthy eating and breastfeeding support and referrals to other healthcare and social service agencies in the state.
“The eWIC system will lead to an improved WIC shopping experience for participants and vendors,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino. “We expect that it will help remove the stigma associated with check use at the retailers, allow families to have more flexibility in the items they purchase when they need them and also reduce errors in choosing non-WIC approved foods.”
Dr. Pino said that the new system will also benefit retailers by improving WIC processing and customer service. “eWIC will help clarify which food items are approved for purchase and increase retailer efficiency by reducing the amount of time that is spent on a WIC sale,” added Dr. Pino
Staff from the Department of Public Health’s WIC program have been working for several months with local WIC agencies to educate participants and train vendors on the new system. The eWIC pilot phase began in February in WIC offices and grocery stores in East Hartford, Hartford, Meriden and Middletown. In April, the roll out phase will begin throughout the remaining Connecticut WIC local agencies and will be completed by June 2016.
The Connecticut WIC Program serves 52,561 participants at 23 full-time WIC locations. Families can shop at nearly 700 WIC-authorized grocery stores and pharmacies. The WIC Program increases food security for low-income families. It also increases local availability and access to fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, whole grain bread and other healthy foods for all residents.
Participation in the WIC Program improves pregnancy outcomes (fewer preterm births, low birth weight deliveries and infant deaths), reduces hospitalization and Medicaid costs and helps ensure a child’s developmental readiness to enter kindergarten.
The WIC Program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered in Connecticut by DPH. The WIC mission is to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care and social services.
For more information on the DPH-WIC Program, please visit www.ct.gov/dph/wic or call (860) 509-8084.