By: Valerie Valcour
The USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is now up to 21st century standards in Vermont! Since 1973, the program has provided income-eligible families with nutrition education and counseling as well as food prescriptions with nutrients targeted to improve health outcomes. Over 800 families are enrolled in the program through the Morrisville District of the Vermont Department of Health which includes Lamoille County as well as Hardwick, Greensboro, Craftsbury, Stannard, and Woodbury. In February 2016, the Morrisville District Office began the transition from home delivery of foods to an electronic debit card to use at the grocery store, known as e-WIC.
Perhaps the most exciting advantage of the transition has been the increase in the variety of foods available to families. With home deliveries, families used to receive only one or two brands of each kind of food. Now, there are more gluten-free, whole grain and cereal options; and some organic foods including soymilk and tofu, legumes, pasta, yogurt, infant cereals, fruits and vegetables. Local foods such as La Panciata bread from Northfield, Vermont Soy tofu, and yogurt from Butterworks Farm are included. Families also receive foods when they need them instead of on a twice-per-month fixed schedule, increasing convenience. Because each participant receives a prescription of a specified quantity of food, families do not need to worry about the costs of most their WIC-eligible foods while they are shopping. Anne Farley, mother of two from Wolcott said, “It’s nice to have choices and to be able to purchase things as I need them, rather than having to store larger quantities from the delivery. I have to go to the grocery store anyway, since WIC is supplemental, and I am able to get more of a variety in the store.” Rather than foods being left on the doorstep, many families appreciate being able to shop with a card. Farley said, “If you’re at all sensitive to others knowing you receive WIC benefits…now that most of the bugs are worked out at the stores, it’s not too conspicuous with the card.”
The WIC card may be used at major supermarkets in Vermont and some smaller stores including Sterling Market in Johnson, Tops in Hardwick, the Eden General Store, and Mac’s Market in Stowe. Families may identify WIC-eligible foods multiple ways. A smartphone app called WIC Shopper allows a quick scan of any UPC code to determine eligibility. There is also a user-friendly food guide booklet available at grocery stores and WIC offices listing the brands and sizes. For spur-of-the-moment shopping trips, the labels on store shelves with the WIC symbol identifying allowed foods are helpful. Staff are dedicated to educating families so that they may have positive experiences while shopping for their WIC foods.
Free classes on oral health, nutrition, or physical activity are offered each month, often via partnerships with local programs and organizations such as Head Start, Building Bright Futures, Copley Hospital, and the Lamoille Family Center. Pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under 5 enrolled in Medicaid insurance in Vermont are automatically eligible for WIC. For more information, visit www.healthvermont.org/wic or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vdhmorrisville. Interested in applying? Simply call 1-800-649-4357.
Valerie Valcour is a Public Health Nurse and specializes in chronic disease prevention and emergency preparedness at the community level for the Department of Health in Morrisville. Valerie has lived in Lamoille County most of her life. She graduated from People’s Academy in 1983 and worked as a nurse at Copley Hospital for several years. In addition to her work, she volunteers as a board member of both Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley and the Lamoille County Planning Commission.