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During COVID-19, many families are worried about having enough food at home.  Promoting programs that help improve food security has been essential during the pandemic.  One of these programs, administered by the Department of Public Health, is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, better known as WIC.

The need for WIC services is greater than we have seen in recent years. Compared to last year, Massachusetts WIC has seen at least a doubling of online applications as a result of families seeking more nutrition support during the pandemic.

WIC provides nutrition counseling and education, breastfeeding support, referrals to other health and social services, and free healthy food to eligible pregnant women, new mothers, and children under the age of five.  Individuals with most types of MassHealth or who receive SNAP are automatically income-eligible for WIC.  Other families, including those with working parents, can be eligible too.  To learn about income guidelines for WIC, visit https://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-eligibility-for-wic.

WIC foods include milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, whole grains (including bread), fruits and vegetables, beans, cereal, and peanut butter.  More foods have been added during the pandemic to give participants more options.  Families can use their electronic WIC Card at more than 900 food stores and pharmacies across the Commonwealth.  More than 90% of WIC families use the WICShopper app, which helps identify WIC eligible foods, keeps track of benefit balances, locates stores that accept WIC benefits, and even features recipes to make the most of the WIC foods.

There are over 110 conveniently located WIC clinics in Massachusetts for families to receive services in their communities.  During the COVID-19 emergency, however, all WIC appointments in Massachusetts are being conducted remotely by phone and online nutrition education.  WIC staff can also update a family’s WIC Card account remotely.

Massachusetts WIC’s online application makes it easy to get started with the program.  Once a family completes the online application, it is automatically sent to the local WIC program closest to their home; a WIC staff member will follow up to make the first appointment.

Even before COVID-19, about half of the babies born in the United States participated in WIC, with more than 40% of infants in Massachusetts utilizing the program during their first year of life.  Due to the pandemic, participation in the WIC program in Massachusetts, and across most of the country, has grown steadily.  A recent survey of Massachusetts families shows that nearly 90% find the program easy to access, with more than half of respondents rating the program a 10 out of 10 in terms of satisfaction.

Massachusetts WIC is able to serve all eligible families in the state and we encourage families to visit www.mass.gov/wic to learn more about program’s eligibility criteria and the full set of services.  WIC will continue to support families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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DIrector, Massachusetts WIC Program

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