Missouri WIC Program Experiences Participation Growth

The Women, Infants, and Children services program began the start of its 50th year in October.

Missouri WIC realized an overall increase of 7.7% in participation over the last federal fiscal year. WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The program provides nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion and support, nutritious foods and referrals to health services.

A recent report from the USDA showed Missouri to be among seven states with consistently lower than national eligible participation rates. Missouri WIC’s overall participation decrease occurred over several years with a sharper decrease during the pandemic when it was difficult to access WIC benefits in person. In an effort to improve access to WIC services and to improve the benefit redemption process, Missouri WIC is attempting outreach opportunities and technology advancements.

In the last year, ongoing outreach strategies in collaboration with the Department of Social Services, MO HealthNet Division, and its health plan partners, to improve communication of WIC program eligibility and WIC program benefits to MO HealthNet program participants was implemented.

One of the new policies was a USDA physical presence waiver, allowing aspects of WIC services to be provided virtually or over the phone to respond to participant requests for remote access to WIC services.

In the current federal fiscal year, participants will receive increased amounts in their fruits and vegetables cash value benefit providing more healthy foods each month.

Before the end of 2024, Missouri WIC will move from an “offline” EBT card system, which requires in-person loading and benefit redemption, to an “online” EBT card system, which removes the in-person requirement allowing for more flexibility in the program.

To qualify for the WIC program participants must be pregnant, breastfeeding, or a new mother, an infant up to age one, or a child up to their 5th birthday, be a Missouri resident, and meet income guidelines.