Alabama state health officials have launched the first phase of its eWIC pilot project.
WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services. The mission of the WIC Program is to improve the health and nutritional status of women, infants and children during critical times of growth and development.
Through this new system, benefits for WIC-approved foods are automatically entered onto a card that is similar to a debit card. This card replaces the current paper-based items and cash-value vouchers which are redeemed at WIC-authorized stores statewide.
Participants in the Alabama Department of Public Health WIC Program in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties are being issued the state’s first eWIC electronic benefit transfer cards.
Each month more than 120,000 Alabama participants at nutritional risk receive WIC benefits through all county health departments and with two private local agencies. There are currently 638 WIC-authorized stores in the state. In 2018, participants redeemed almost $97 million in food instruments at WIC-authorized stores statewide.
“I want to thank all of the program staff that have been involved with eWIC implementation and our clinic staff who see participants daily to provide WIC services. We have been working towards this milestone since 2009 and are extremely happy to begin this pilot,” Alabama WIC Program Director Amanda Martin said.
The federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that each state WIC agency implement an electronic benefit transfer system throughout the state by October 1, 2020.
“We are very excited to begin our eWIC pilot. Vendor enablement is a key piece to implementing eWIC. I want to thank all our authorized WIC vendors for their hard work in preparing for eWIC implementation,” Stacey Neumann, WIC Vendor Management director and eWIC project manager, said.
Among the benefits offered by eWIC for WIC participants and authorized WIC vendors:
• Less stigma for the WIC participants
• Smoother transaction at the register
• Reduced time in lane
• Automatic electronic payments to the vendors
“AGA was proud to partner with the Alabama Department of Public Health, WIC Division, on the planning and implementation of eWIC in our state,” Ellie Taylor, Alabama Grocers Association president, said. “For retailers and WIC participants, eWIC will be a tremendous improvement to the overall shopping experience with smoother transactions at the register, streamlining of processing, and reduced checkout times. Our retailers are excited to move forward with eWIC as we continue to offer quality customer service to all Alabama consumers.”
The second phase of the eWIC rollout begins April 1, and includes the remainder of the counties in the East Central and the Northeastern districts of the Alabama Department of Public Health, including: Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Etowah, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties.
The pilot area has 36,000 participants, 27 clinics and 192 authorized WIC vendors.
After the pilot, implementation begins in other districts:
• June: Northern District (approximately 24,961 participants, 15 clinics, 143 WIC vendors)
• July: West Central and Jefferson Districts (approximately 24,967 participants, 20 clinics, 130 WIC vendors)
• August: Southeastern, Mobile and Southwestern Districts (approximately 34,292 participants, 35 clinics, 174 WIC vendors)