What is WIC?
WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is a federal grant program that provides financial resources for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education to eligible families with young children. WIC vouchers are distributed on a monthly basis to eligible families through individual state WIC offices. The Minnesota Department of Health distributes WIC payments to eligible families through the MN State WIC Office.
eWIC Roll Out
On Monday, February 18, WIC began transitioning from paper vouchers to an electronic payment card in Ramsey County known as eWIC. The switch from a paper system to an electronic system is a federally required change to the grant program that supports WIC. We’re excited that the new eWIC system provides a more consistent checkout experience for all shoppers, as well as some added flexibility regarding how and when shoppers may use WIC benefits. Mississippi Market Co-op shoppers may notice some changes around the stores as part of the federally required switch to eWIC.
Not all WIC participants will receive an eWIC card immediately. The ability to process transactions through eWIC and paper vouchers will remain for a number of months until the roll out is complete statewide. We do not know exactly when this will be complete. Mississippi Market Co-op staff are trained to process both eWIC and paper voucher transactions.
How will WIC transactions change at the register?
Transactions at the register will now take less time and be less complicated, with eWIC replacing paper vouchers. Mississippi Market Co-op’s point-of-sale system recognizes WIC-allowed products and customers are able to apply the funds on their cards to those purchases. If a product is not WIC-eligible or not covered by their benefits, customers have the option to pay with another form of payment, or may decide not to purchase it. Customers confirm their use of benefits before the transaction is complete. The new electronic process is much faster and smoother than the former paper voucher system.
Shoppers using WIC have more flexibility in how and when to use the benefit, as well as allowing other household members to use the benefit. The new electronic payment system makes the experience at the register smoother for co-op staff and shoppers. The approved product list is more limited with fewer exceptions. This should help customers more easily identify which products are WIC-eligible.
New WIC Requirements
Now that eWIC has launched, we must adhere to the new approved product list. Unfortunately, we are no longer able to opt out of certain items or provide alternatives as we have in the past. To participate in WIC, stores are required to carry all products specified in the program. Mississippi Market Co-op remains committed to the WIC program. While we continue to negotiate alternatives, we now stock items required by WIC such as pre-packed cheese, non-organic whole wheat pasta, and white eggs “with no attributes.” WIC determined “attributes” include cage-free, organic, brown, and nutritionally-enhanced.
Why is WIC limiting which eggs Mississippi Market Co-op carries?
WIC staff report they limited any variation to avoid confusion for customers and for retailers. Staff at the MN State WIC Office believe that any deviation from the approved products, or from how payments are made, will make the transition more difficult. Mississippi Market is now required to carry plain white chicken eggs that are not organic, pasteurized or fertile.
Can Mississippi Market offer substitutions for out-of-stock WIC allowed items?
No, substitutions are no longer allowed using eWIC. Mississippi Market Co-op complies with WIC requirements to maintain an adequate inventory of the required products. Customers have more flexibility and do not need to complete their WIC shop all at the same time. For example, customers can go to another store to complete their transaction, or come back to the co-op on another day to use their remaining WIC funds.
Contact the MN State WIC Office
We encourage you to share your thoughts and concerns by calling 651-201-4444. Mississippi Market Co-op prioritizes products from humanely raised animals. We are working with the MN State WIC Office to advocate for quality food we believe should be available to everyone. Your feedback may help create change.