October marked the start of the 50th year of WIC services in the United States. Missouri WIC begins this celebration with an overall increase of 7.7% in participation over the last federal fiscal year (FFY). WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The program provides quality nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion and support, nutritious foods and referrals to health services.
A recent report from the USDA showed Missouri to be among seven states with consistently lower than national eligible participation rates in FFY 2021. Missouri WIC’s overall participation decrease occurred over several years with a sharper decrease during the pandemic when it was difficult to access WIC benefits in person. In an effort to improve access to WIC services and to improve the benefit redemption process, Missouri WIC actively pursues outreach opportunities and technology advancements.
· In the last year, ongoing outreach strategies in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, MO HealthNet Division, and its health plan partners, to improve communication of WIC program eligibility and WIC program benefits to MO HealthNet program participants was implemented.
· On August 10, 2023, new policies took effect under a USDA physical presence waiver, allowing aspects of WIC services to be provided virtually or over the phone to respond to participant requests for remote access to WIC services.
· In the current FFY, participants will receive increased amounts in their fruits and vegetables cash value benefit (CVB) providing more healthy foods each month.
· Before the end of 2024, Missouri WIC will move from an “offline” EBT card system, which requires in-person loading and benefit redemption, to an “online” EBT card system, which removes the in-person requirement allowing for more flexibility in the program.
Removing technology and remote service barriers, along with improved direct communication to eligible individuals is expected to continue to have a positive impact on WIC participation.
Missouri WIC offers healthy food choices that target specific essential nutrients often missing from the diets of participants, such as iron, calcium, protein, and vitamins A, C, and D. To meet these needs, the WIC food package includes fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and yogurt along with other nutritious foods.
To qualify for the WIC program, participants must meet the following requirements:
· Be a pregnant, breastfeeding or new mother; an infant up to age one; or a child up to their 5th birthday.
· Be a resident of Missouri.
· Meet income eligibility requirements.