A better experience for clients in the WIC nutrition program

Families who purchase food through the WIC nutrition program are getting a major upgrade this fall: We are replacing a long tradition of paper checks with new electronic cards.

The new WIC card works like a debit card

It’s more flexible, more convenient, and the upgrade will bring a better overall experience for families.

The new WIC cards will be familiar and intuitive to use for many families – because they’re similar to other electronic payment cards.

When a WIC participant comes to a grocery checkout counter, they simply pay for the groceries with the WIC card.

Better access to healthy foods

The streamlined shopping experience will help more families with young children get nutritious foods, such as baby food, cheeses, eggs, and fresh produce.

WIC is the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides supplemental food for women and children who meet eligibility criteria – including nearly half of all babies in Washington. WIC also offers health screenings, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and help getting other services. It’s provided in King County through numerous Public Health—Seattle & King County (PHSKC) clinics and eight private health care organizations.

“I’m excited for our families, because they’ll have better access to healthy and nutritious foods,” said Lynn Kidder, the WIC program manager at PHSKC. “By making the program easier and more flexible, we’re ultimately helping reduce food insecurity for families.”

The WIC cards become available on a rolling basis, which started earlier this year in Kitsap County. Public Health clinics in the Auburn, Kent, Midway and Federal Way areas upgraded last week, and clients at remaining clinics in King County will begin making the switch either this week or the week of October 21st, depending on location.

New: streamlined shopping and texting

The electronic system behind the cards brings much more than a quick and easy checkout.

  • Clients will have more flexibility in how they shop, now that the system enables families to shop throughout the month, rather than having to purchase all their WIC food in one trip. Any foods they don’t purchase will be available on their next trip until the end of their benefit period.
  • The grocery receipt will print out a list of foods remaining in the account.
  • The WIC card will include foods for all WIC clients in the family, so families no longer have to keep track of separate checks for each family member.
  • New software at the clinics will improve clients’ experience, such as offering appointment reminders via text message.

Overall, WIC helps expecting moms access the tools and services they need to have a healthy pregnancy and supports parents and caregivers to be successful in raising healthy children. Outcomes include:

  • Children who participate in WIC are more likely to receive regular health care, and experience fewer childhood illnesses, such as ear infections, stomach viruses, and colds.
  • Children who participate in WIC start healthy eating habits before starting kindergarten
  • When some members of a family participate in WIC, the entire family eats healthier

For more information about WIC:

Originally published October 7, 2019

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I'm part of the communications team at Public Health - Seattle & King County and work closely with all of the programs in the Community Health Services Division.