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DC WIC Introduces Electronic Benefit System, Improving Access to Food for District Families

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC — The DC Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program has completed a statewide transition from paper voucher benefits to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card system while simultaneously onboarding a new management information system.

Referred to as "eWIC", this two-pronged statewide program enhancement will modernize the process of enrolling participants, issuing benefits, and supporting participants' nutrition needs. The change will also help improve the shopping experience for WIC participants and streamline the payment process for participating stores.

"The District is committed to improving perinatal and infant health outcomes," said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, DC Health Director. "It's essential for women, infants, and children to access the nutritious foods they need during key times of growth and development."

WIC has a longstanding history of improving perinatal health outcomes, and EBT is widely recognized as the optimal format for food benefit delivery. Moving from paper checks to an EBT system reduces checkout times as well as stigma associated with using food benefits in a retail setting. This statewide transition to EBT is part of a multi-pronged strategy to increase participation in DC WIC and support improved perinatal health outcomes across the District.

"The DC WIC Program is a city-wide partnership with grantee organizations, food retailers, community partners, and residents — everyone is excited to begin using this new system," said Akua Odi Boateng, DC Health WIC State Director. "It eliminates paper vouchers for families, allows stores to be more quickly reimbursed, and most importantly helps us more effectively meet the nutrition needs of pregnant women, new moms, infants, and children."

The eWIC system operates similarly to a debit card. Benefits are pre-loaded monthly onto a household's eWIC card, and instead of shopping with paper vouchers at the store, participants use their eWIC card to purchase approved items at any of the 53 DC WIC-authorized stores, including supermarkets, corner stores, pharmacies, and a Commissary.

The eWIC transition also includes implementation of an updated statewide management information system (MIS), which will increase the District's ability to analyze and utilize WIC data to enhance service delivery and increase program enrollment.

First launched in the District in 1981, the DC WIC program provides expectant mothers and families with young children in the District nutritious supplemental foods, nutrition counseling and breastfeeding support, and connections to other healthcare and community resources during critical periods of growth and development. Extensive research has shown WIC is one of the most effective perinatal health programs in the nation, improving birth outcomes, breastfeeding, and nutrition status of women, infants and young children.

DC WIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service and currently reaches 15,500 participants.

To learn more about DC WIC and the eWIC transition, please visit www.dcwic.org/ewic.