PITTSBURG — Participants in the Kansas Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children Program will no longer need WIC checks to go shopping.

The program is now issuing electronic benefits transaction cards — like a WIC credit card — to be used to purchase WIC approved groceries. Cards will begin being issued February 7, and the rollout will be completed by June 1.

Currently, WIC participants must use paper checks to purchase WIC approved items. The checks already have items listed on them, and must be used all at once. For example, if a family has a loaf of bread, but needs milk, and their WIC check is made out for two gallons of milk and two loaves of bread, they must get it all or lose the other benefits.

Crawford County Health Department Nutrition Services Coordinator Linda Timme said the card will help with these types of issues.

“With the checks, participants had to get everything on that check at one time, and they had to show identification. Checks had to be run separately and it could hold up the line,” Timme said. “The card will be faster and more discreet. They’ll run it first and it will automatically remove the WIC approved items.

“It will also give participants greater control over their shopping, as they can split up shopping trips and benefits.”

Timme said benefits will still have a start and end date, but can be purchased anytime between those dates. WIC helps provide access to nutritional foods for pregnant women, infants and children up to five years old.

“The food packages are tailored for each level to provide nutrients that may be needed at those times,” Timme said.

A smart phone application will also rollout with the eWIC cards. The WICShopper app will allow participants to scan the barcode on food items to determine whether it is WIC approved.

WIC families in Shawnee County participated in a pilot of the eWIC cards, which began last September. The pilot was a success, which led to the statewide rollout.

WIC provides services at over 100 clinic sites throughout Kansas and serves approximately 53,000 women and infants and children each month.

— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at choener@morningsun.net or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.