Contact: Natalie Shelton
District 4 Public Health WIC program now issuing benefits via eWIC cards
LAGRANGE – November 8, 2022 — Going through the grocery store checkout line is becoming easier for local families who receive food and infant formula benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
The District 4 Public Health WIC program has begun issuing a new electronic benefits card, or “eWIC” card, to each family at their next scheduled WIC appointment, said Freda Mitchem, District 4 WIC’s nutrition services director. The eWIC cards are replacing Georgia WIC’s paper vouchers/checks, which have been issued nationwide since 1974.
The WIC program provides nutrition services for low-income women during and after pregnancy, as well as children 5 and younger.
Families will no longer use multiple monthly vouchers to buy WIC-approved foods. Instead, they will have one eWIC card that functions much like a debit card with a PIN code at any WIC-authorized vendor/grocery store.
“We’re thrilled for what the new process means for our families,” Mitchem said. “With the paper voucher system, WIC participants had to purchase enough approved food at once or lose the remaining benefit amounts on a paper voucher. With the eWIC card, if they just need a carton of eggs, they can go buy it without having to use their monthly benefits all at once.”
Although a family does not have to purchase all their WIC food benefits at once, any unused amounts do not carry over to the next monthly benefit period. Their remaining balance will be printed on their store receipt, and they also can access their balance online or by phone.
State health districts are distributing the cards in phases, so WIC participants should continue to use their recently issued paper vouchers until they receive an eWIC card at their next appointment. Most participants should receive their eWIC card by December.
“Our staff members have trained for countless hours to learn the new electronic system and prepare for the transition from ‘paper to plastic,’” Mitchem said. “We’re looking forward to all our WIC clients having their cards in hand, and we appreciate their patience and understanding as we try to make the change as seamless as possible.”
Mitchem said District 4 WIC staff members have developed meaningful relationships with WIC participants not only by providing them access to essential nutrition, but also to nutrition education, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, and health care provider referrals.
“Some of them become a bit emotional when they talk about presenting clients with their eWIC card because they’ve become so invested in their lives,” she said. “The electronic system removes some significant hurdles out of the process, and they won’t have to risk feeling stigmatized at the checkout counter for holding up the line. To anyone else, it will look like a normal transaction at the PIN pad.”
Georgia has long offered an electronic benefits card for the separately administered Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps from when benefits were delivered on paper.
District 4 WIC clinics serves Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson counties. They stand ready to serve all participants with a scheduled appointment during the eWIC transition, and in most cases, can offer remote services by telephone.
Those who do not have an appointment and wish to learn if they are eligible for WIC’s free benefits and services can call the District 4 WIC Call Center at (706) 298-6080. Clients must show proof of income, home address, and identification at the first visit.
In addition, one can complete a WIC Online Application on the Georgia Gateway website. One of District 4’s WIC clinics will then be in contact to complete a pre-clinic screening, see if the person is eligible for services, and schedule an appointment.