Jill Gordon

Public health nurse Jill Gordon is the point person for WIC at the Moab office of the SEUHD and a fan of the new eWIC program. [Photo by Heila Ershadi / Moab Sun News]

Families in the WIC program can now shop for healthy foods with more privacy and convenience after the Southeast Utah Health Department rolled out new eWIC cards, which function similar to a debit card. Lower-income pregnant women, new or nursing mothers, and families with infants and children up to age five may be eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly called WIC. For decades, the program has helped struggling families eat well and stay healthy by providing coupons for specific nutritious foods and counseling on nutrition-related subjects including breastfeeding.

The federal program is administered locally by the SEUHD Moab office.

Formerly, the complicated system required families to separate out WIC items from other grocery purchases and match them with the correct paper coupon. This increased the record-keeping required of WIC participants, complicated the shopping and check out experience, and did not allow the shopper privacy at the grocery store checkout. The eWIC card resolves many drawbacks of the old, paper-based system.

Jill Gordon, a public health nurse and WIC point person at the Moab office of the SEUHD, said eWIC is “so nice because it’s more convenient for everyone.”

“They can buy what they need when they need it, and it’s as easy as swiping their debit card,” she said. “People are thrilled when they hear that we have finally gone to eWIC.”

Participation in the WIC program has been shown to be effective in improving the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their children; participation was linked to longer gestation periods for pregnant mothers and infants, higher birth weights and lower infant mortality, according to a 1990 study cited on the SEUHD’s website.

WIC is not intended to provide all foods for its participants, but to supplement and improve the diet and overall health of women and children. WIC purchases may include milk and cheese, eggs, beans, cereals, juices, fruits and vegetables, tortillas and bread, brown rice and peanut butter, as well as baby food and infant formula. Breastfeeding is also encouraged for mothers and infants within the program and support is available to WIC participants.

Education and counseling are available to WIC participants on nutrition matters including infant feeding, shopping on a budget and helping children who are picky eaters. These services are available in person by appointment; educational videos are also available on-demand on the health department’s website, www.seuhealth.com.

To qualify for participation, an applicant’s income must be at or below a threshold that increases with household size. Persons already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program automatically meet the eligibility requirements.

Once qualified, the cardholder receives an eWIC card with the month’s benefits for their household available at the start of the month; unused benefits expire at month’s end. The card has a PIN and cardholders may designate an alternate shopper who can also use the card. There is also a WIC shopper app available from the Apple App Store and Google Play where items may be checked to be sure they are covered by WIC.

About once every three months, cardholders will meet at the clinic with a WIC health professional to receive health education and refill the card with benefits.

Gordon encouraged people to consider signing up.

“Applying for WIC is super easy,” she said. “Just give us a call and we can help walk you through it.”

For more information, or to begin the application process, go to www.seuhealth.com/wic or call the Southeast Utah Health Department at 435-259-5602.