BEND, OR -- Families receiving assistance through the state’s WIC program will see big changes to how they receive their benefits in the coming months. "Historically, for the past 40+ years, clients have gotten vouchers – they’re giant checks that they use in the grocery store to purchase the foods that are allowed on WIC. In Linn and Benton counties in September, they’re piloting a program so clients can use an EBT card," says Laura Spalding, WIC Coordinator for Deschutes County.
She tells KBND the switch to a debit-style card will streamline the process for families receiving benefits, similar to how food stamps are distributed through the Oregon Trail Card. "The Oregon Trail card provides a dollar amount, so people have more flexibility in what they can buy. But, with the EBT card through WIC, the foods still remain the same; clients will still be getting milk, juice, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, all those things are still going to be what they can purchase. They can just purchase it a little more easily."
"They won’t have to separate their foods out anymore, they don’t have to buy everything all at once; they can go in for one gallon of milk and just swipe their card. And, the biggest thing is, clients feel bad when they’re standing in the store. Some of them go really late at night, like at 11:00, in order to not hold up the line. I don’t think anybody should ever have to feel bad about feeding their families," Spalding says.
The new WIC cards should roll-out locally by February and will reload automatically each month, as long as the client remains eligible for benefits. WIC provides certain foods and nutrition education for low-income women, infants and children who qualify.