WIC Vouchers at the Farmers Market

As a part of my WIC responsibilities for ISPP dietetic rotations, another intern and I went to assist at the Morgantown Farmers market to distribute WIC vouchers to participants. The farmers’ market vouchers were mentioned to clients at WIC when I observed this past week. So, now I that I could actually see how participants come and use the vouchers, it seems much clearer to me as to how the whole process works.

Each WIC participant in each family gets a total of $20 worth of WIC vouchers to spend at vendors at the farmers’ market that accept WIC vouchers. So, for example if you’re a pregnant mother at WIC with 2 children under 5 years of age, then you would receive $60 worth of vouchers to spend. The vouchers have an expiration date of October 31st, 2013 so; this gives parents and families time to spend the vouchers as well. Each voucher packet has two $5 vouchers inside. So, each participant receives two packets.

The vendors that accept the WIC vouchers have orange posted signs that families can look for when shopping at any of the farmers’ markets. The WIC vouchers themselves are only distributed at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market on Spruce Street, the downtown location.

WIC was given $2,500 worth of vouchers this year. The amount of vouchers that they are given each year depends on their redemption rate from the previous year. So, in 2011 the Monongalia County WIC farmers’ market redemption rate was 60%. In 2012, their redemption rate was 70% when the state redemption rate was 65%. So, from the numbers I observed it seems that if a county has a redemption rate higher than the state average, they receive more vouchers than the previous year and vice versa.

When the WIC participants pick-up their vouchers at the downtown farmers’ market, they can use these vouchers at any of the farmers’ market locations in the area. Yes, the vouchers are only distributed at the Spruce Street location. But, the vouchers can be spent at any farmers’ market listed below. The participants are only given the vouchers once per summer.

The vouchers seem to be a hot commodity as well. Last week was the first week that WIC was at the Morgantown Farmers’ Market to distribute the vouchers. Out of the $2,500 that WIC started with, they issued $1,900 last week. So, today we started with $600 worth of vouchers. They weren’t all given out today but, I can definitely see how WIC participants love using these. Not only does it serve as a convenience but, it also supports the local economy. The program, in a whole, is such a great motivator for WIC participants to increase fresh fruits and vegetables into their family’s diet. The only restriction on what the participants can purchase is that the vouchers will only be accepted for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. So, families can’t purchase things like eggs, proteins, or baked goods. But again, this is great because it encourages families to eat more fruits and vegetables and maybe even try a new fruit or vegetable!

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wic fm list

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Go Ahead… Pick Your WIC!!

Well, I am currently in full swing of rotations! As of right now, I am rotating in the morning at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café for Institutional Foodservice and at West Virginia’s Monongalia County WIC office in the afternoons.

WIC is available for so many different types of families. The program is available to married and single parents, working or non-working, those receiving other types of aid or not participating in any other programs. Even if you are a grandparent, foster parent, or other legal guardian of a child under the age of 5, you can even apply for WIC.

WIC is available to expecting mothers, up until 6 months after the end of their pregnancy. Infants are categorized in another group and covered from birth – 5 months old. Children are covered from 11 months – 5 years of age. And throughout their childhood, they have appointments every 6 months.

Today marked my “official” first day at the WIC office. Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the Mon. County WIC schedules their nutrition clinics to see participants for follow-up and new client assessments. This afternoon, I observed a Registered Dietitian at WIC, assess 4 different appointments.

Each participant with a nutrition clinic appointment attends or completes an online nutrition education class 3 months prior to their appointment. The nutrition education classes cover a variety of topics like infant nutrition, nutrition during pregnancy, and shopping on a limited budget. Within the participant’s assessments, WIC RDs ask the parent(s)/proxy, who may also be the primary food preparer, a series of assessment questions. More importantly, these questions should spark a conversation with the participant(s) to try and get the most information about the nutritional status of the client. The suggested assessment questions are broken into three categories: women, infant, and children… How fitting!

Once the participants are seen and finished their clinic appointment, they are given food vouchers which can be used at WIC-approved stores. These vouchers are designated for specific foods through the WIC program. Here are some types of foods that are WIC-approved:

        Milk- Whole milk during infancy, 2% or less during childhood

        Cheese

        Infant Cereal

        Fresh Fruits

        Eggs

        Peanut Butter

        Infant Formula

        Fresh Vegetables

        Juice

        Canned Fish

        Beans

        Whole Grains Breads

        Cereal

        Baby Food

        Soy Milk

Participants receive certain foods based on their individual nutritional needs. If for any reason, mothers are incapable of breastfeeding their infant, WIC provides vouchers for formula. Yes, WIC is major advocate of breastfeeding but, sometimes women are not physically able to do so. Formula that WIC offers is grouped into 3 categories:

1.     Powder: Powder formula that is combined with water, usually cereal formula.

2.     Concentrate: Liquid formula combined with water, usually producing a bubbling effect. This formula may not be best choice for a child with nutritional problems like spitting up or reflux.

3.     Ready-to-Feed: Requires no addition of water.

The WIC is to improve the health of participants by providing the following benefits:

        Nutrition Workshops on a Variety of Topics

        Breastfeeding Support

        Nutritious Foods

        Referrals to Other Health and Social Service Agencies

Overall, I think the first day went really well. I still have a lot to learn and honestly, I’m soaking up the entire experience. I have a list of other projects that I will be completing at WIC so; I’ll have much more to talk about in the upcoming weeks!

A laminated visual that an RD at WIC has on-hand to show clients at appointments.

A laminated visual that an RD at WIC has on-hand to show clients at appointments.

Information that is provided within one of WIC's several pamphlets for participants, based by age of child/infant.

Information that is provided within one of WIC’s several pamphlets for participants, based by age of child/infant.