Magoffin County Health Department will begin using a new upgraded web-based system to issue benefits for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program beginning April 28, 2011.
The web-based system uses information gathered at WIC participant visits to issue Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards to be used for WIC purchases. Offering the “eWIC” cards gives families the needed access to benefits without the delay and stigma of paper food instruments (checks) which most counties in Kentucky still use.
Under the current system, WIC participants are issued multiple paper food instruments to purchase WIC approved items in authorized stores. All items listed on a food instrument must be purchased at one time or the benefits are lost. With the EBT card a WIC participant has the flexibility of purchasing WIC approved items at any time during the valid period of their benefits. This enhances the shopping experience of all WIC customers by ensuring confidentiality during transactions, allowing the participant to shop for a gallon of milk or loaf of bread without having to make other purchases, and results in a faster and smoother checkout at the retailer.
Many of the retailer’s systems will be integrated, meaning participants can swipe their eWIC cards through the same device that accepts credit and debit cards. The retailers will no longer have to manually complete paper food instruments. At checkout the eWIC card will ensure the participant purchases only WIC authorized foods in correct quantities, and removes the margin of cashier error during WIC transactions. There are a few retailers in the area who will accept the new eWIC cards using a separate device at checkout.
There are other WIC EBT pilot projects under way around the country, but Kentucky is serving as the leader in developing and testing the use of on-line integrated technology for WIC EBT. This project was first piloted in the Barren River District and will continue to expand statewide to approximately 139,000 WIC participants.
WIC is a short-term intervention program designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behavior in low income women who are pregnant or gave birth and children 5 years old and younger who need nutritional help. Funded by the USDA, WIC offers nutrition education and services; breastfeeding promotion and education; monthly food prescription of nutritious foods; and access to other maternal, prenatal and pediatric health-care services.