Community , Health

Osage Nation WIC now offering EBT cards

Recipients of the Osage Nation Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefit are now using electronic cards to shop for approved nutritious foods including milk, cereal and juice.

The new electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards are handheld size with “Osage Nation WIC” on the front along with a pair of Osage baby moccasins. These cards are replacing the WIC paper vouchers, which will speed up the food purchases at store checkout lines thanks to a swipe of the card, said Manon Taylor, director of ON WIC.

“To see it come to fruition is like a dream come true,” Taylor added in a news release. “So many people have been involved. We have done months of training with our staff. It’s been ongoing and we are at the point where (all the WIC staff) feels comfortable. It’s not only going to benefit our management of WIC resources and benefits, but more importantly, it is going to benefit the client and alleviate some the stigma associated with standing at the checkout with paper vouchers.”

The WIC move to offering EBT cards mirrors the practice already offered to low-income clients who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. WIC and SNAP funding comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and those federal funds are awarded to entities including the Nation, which administers the WIC program for its service area recipients.

A list of WIC-approved foods is available online at: www.ok.gov/health2/documents/FFY2018%20Oklahoma%20Unified%20WIC%20Approved%20Food%20Card.pdf

According to the federal WIC website, benefit eligibility is based on residency requirements, income, and category requirements such as pregnant women and those who are postpartum (up to six months after the infant’s birth or end of pregnancy). Children in client households who are receiving WIC benefits also have age eligibility requirements for infants up to their first birthday and children up to their fifth birthday.

Taylor said the EBT cards will allow for better tracking of purchase data, which is beneficial for her office. “With the tracking mechanisms, we can track, by product, what people are buying, (and) trends, like what time of day people are shopping the most and which stores they are shopping at the most. It helps with cost-containment. An integral part of the federal regulations for WIC is to provide cost-containment measures,” Taylor said in the release. “We always strive to keep costs low per participant while delivering the best nutritional value that we can.”

According to the ON WIC, the department provides services at six clinic sites throughout Osage County and serves approximately 2,930 low-income pregnant women, infants, and children under age five. Monthly, Osage WIC families shop at more than 32 grocery stores and the department has a 2018 base grant of $1.9 million for direct services food delivery.