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Mississippi to phase out WIC distribution centers

Mississippi will close distribution centers for a federal nutrition program in the coming year and will move to a system that could be simpler to use.

Sometime before Oct. 1, 2020, the state will start using electronic benefits transfer cards that will allow recipients on the Women, Infants and Children program to buy food at grocery stores and pharmacies. Reports show that most states are already doing that, and Mississippi is among the few still using a warehouse distribution system

WIC provides “nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care” to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age 5 who are considered to be at nutritional risk, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program serves almost half of all infants born in the United States.

WIC foods include “infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried and canned beans/peas, and canned fish.”

Each state’s health department operates the WIC program, with funding and guidelines from the USDA. The federal agency decided all 50 states must start using electronic cards for WIC recipients by Oct. 1.

Each county in Mississippi has at least one WIC warehouse. Liz Sharlot, spokeswoman for the Mississippi State Department of Health, said there will be no need for WIC warehouses once the cards are in place.

WIC’s transition from warehouses to grocery stores is still in the early stages of searching for and authorizing grocery stores and pharmacies as vendors, so nothing is final yet, but “the wheels are in motion,” Sharlot said.



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