Bigger food benefits on the way for women and children, WIC says

WIC benefits get boost from American Rescue Plan Act
The Woman, Infants, and Children Nutrition program is housed in the Anchorage Health Department.
The Woman, Infants, and Children Nutrition program is housed in the Anchorage Health Department.(Taylor Clark)
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 4:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - In time for the holiday season, the Women Infants and Children Nutrition program will have boosted benefits with money from the American Rescue Plan Act according to the Anchorage WIC program manager, Christine Pagano.

Pagano explained that the WIC program is similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) but with a targeted client base and more resources. It’s specifically intended for women, pregnant and postpartum women, and children up to five years old.

The benefits provided by WIC are fairly sizeable. Before the boost, Pagano said that the benefits were $9 a month for children and $11 a month for women before the American Rescue Plan. Now, they are $24 for children, $43 for pregnant and postpartum women, and $47 for women who are breastfeeding.

The benefits will be running at the increased rate during November and December, Pagano said.

The boost was actually running during the months of July, Aug., and Sept., Pagano said. The Anchorage office thought that they would be losing the added benefit, but then it was extended.

Anchorage residents have been utilizing the WIC program more during the pandemic. About 1,000 people have been added since COVID-19 made times more tough for many people, according to Pagano.

“We have about 5,000 participants, but we estimate that there are probably about another 5,000 that are eligible in Anchorage,” Pagano said.

The money goes straight to participant’s WIC cards to be spent at grocery stores, though Pagano said the money is meant to be spent on specific foods.

“Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products - foods that support the health and development of pregnant women, women after they’ve given birth, and then children up to the age of 5. So we do that, as well as nutrition education, and breast feeding support, and referrals so there’s a lot that happens with WIC.”

She said they even have a transportation program to help women and their children get to the grocery store.

To sign up for these benefits, eligible residents can click here or call the WIC program office in the Anchorage Health Department at 343-4668. Because of the pandemic, Pagano said people have to apply over the phone and online right now.

“They can call us and we can set up an appointment or they can go online and start the application process through that. And it’s really awesome because we’re getting people signed up and on the WIC program, getting benefits within like a couple days,” Pagano said.

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