Watertown, New York — North Country Family Health Center’s (NCFHC) Women, Infants, and Children’s (WIC) Program is educating both current and new participants on the recently expanded New York State’s eligible foods for those who qualify for the WIC Program. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally funded Program to provide nutrition benefits and education to at-risk pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5. The Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. NCFHC’s WIC Program offers services to families in Jefferson and Lewis Counties.
NCFHC’s WIC Program provides four core services to participants: nutrition education; breastfeeding support and promotion; healthy food packages; and referrals to health and social services in the area. The healthy foods element of WIC may be one of the more well-known assets to the Program. Participants who qualify for WIC (those whose income is equal to or less than 185% of the federal poverty level) have traditionally been able to redeem their monthly WIC benefits at local grocery stores for specific nutritious items such as whole-wheat bread, beans, eggs, milk, cheese, and infant formula.
In the fall of 2018, NCFHC’s WIC Program joined other New York State WIC Programs and instituted a new electronic benefits transfer card called “eWIC” – an easier way to obtain healthy WIC foods. An eWIC card is similar to a debit card and it allows participants to buy WIC-approved foods and tracks purchases throughout the month. eWIC shoppers report that their shopping experience is much more discreet and personalized to their shopping preferences. After the implementation of the eWIC card the next step was to expand the list of approved eWIC food items in New York State – both in brands that are approved as well as additional approved food items. “The foods list enhancement couldn’t have come at a better time. There are so many healthy options for breads, cereals, yogurts, and baby foods in today’s market, so adding more of these options to the WIC Acceptable Foods List is incredible, especially during this unfortunate time when food and supplies have been limited,” comments Angel Carter, WIC Director, NCFHC. “The list has grown to include more name brand cold and hot cereals; baby fruits and vegetables; juices; yogurts; and whole grains.
Participants will find it easier to fill their carts during the pandemic with the expansion of the approved foods.” The list of additional foods, and how to apply for WIC may be found at https://www.wicstrong.com/agency/north-country/.
NCFHC operates three permanent WIC sites in Jefferson and Lewis Counties – the first at 238 Arsenal Street, Watertown; the second at 26908 Independence Way, Evans Mills (located at the main gate of Fort Drum); and the third at the Lewis County General Hospital, 7785 North State Street, Lowville. Additionally, WIC operates temporary sites in Theresa, Clayton, Adams, and West Carthage. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, all face to face WIC appointments have been suspended and phone appointments ONLY are being conducted with participants. Current and new participants may call 315.782.9222, Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. with questions or concerns.
“As an essential healthcare provider in the community, we continue to remain committed to being available to our WIC participants,” comments Joey Marie Horton, Chief Executive Officer, North Country Family Health Center. “During this unprecedented time we are grateful that WIC participants will now have more choices when shopping. In addition, we are pleased to be able to provide telephone appointments to ensure WIC families can stay safely at home and still receive their benefits.”
Patients may visit NCFHC’s COVID-19 page for the most up to date hours of operation and special notices during this pandemic: https://www.nocofamilyhealth.org/covid-19/. NCFHC’s WIC Program also has a very active Facebook following at WIC of NNY https://www.facebook.com/JeffersonCountyWIC.
North Country Family Health Center is a Federally Qualified Health Center that provides high-quality, affordable healthcare to over 13,000 North Country residents annually at its four community-based locations in Watertown, Lowville, and Evans Mills, and within its school-based locations. NCFHC also provides nutritious food vouchers and other support to approximately 5,000 pregnant women, infants, and children each month through its WIC Program; assists approximately 4,000 individuals with insurance enrollment annually; and provides special initiatives to help high-risk pregnant and parenting families and individuals who experience insecure housing. For more information about North Country Family Health Center or its programs, visit www.NoCoFamilyHealth.org or call (315) 782-9450.