TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A government nutrition program is getting a whole lot easier in Arizona. The antiquated system has now gone digital.
The Department of Health Services announced it has stopped writing checks to families who get federal nutritional and education aid under the Women, Infants, and Children Program known as WIC.
"WIC is available to Arizona's pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants and children under the age of five who are at nutritional risk and who are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines below. A pregnant woman is considered two family members," the Arizona WIC website states on its eligibility page.
"It's a very vulnerable population," said WIC registered dietician Alexandra Mouw.
The Department of Health Services said it completed a years-long effort to convert the payments to a debit-card system, including an EzWIC mobile app that makes it easier for program participants to know which foods and items are approved or not approved.
Mouw said it will streamline the process in grocery stores, to get WIC participants through checkout faster. It's a big change from the old system that Mouw said was tough to navigate.
"Definitely a lot more challenging. A bit of a stigma attached to it, too," she told Tucson News Now, talking about the old methods. "So things have just become a lot more user-friendly. So our participants still get access to the same healthy foods, the same education, and the same benefits, just in a lot easier way."
WIC serves nearly 140,000 Arizona women, infants and children under age 6, the Associated Press reported. The program is strictly designed to be supplemental for families, but distributed nearly $117 million in food aid last year.