Clients of Rock Island County’s Women, Infant and Children’s nutrition program, or WIC, are being asked to return to in-person visits starting Monday, July 18. In-person visits, normally required by the federal program every six months, were suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic.
WIC gives babies and children a healthy start. The program provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and social services for income-eligible pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to age 5.
“WIC helps grow healthy moms and children,” said Janet Hill, chief operating officer at the Rock Island County Health Department and manager of the WIC program. “WIC provides families hundreds of dollars every month in food benefits, which certainly helps with today’s rapidly rising food costs. We also are
community experts in breastfeeding and child development. We work with healthcare and social service providers to make sure families are on the path to lifetime health. In many cases, WIC is the front door to helping lower- and moderate-income families access the services they need to succeed.”
Until at least Sept. 30, WIC families are receiving additional purchasing power for fresh, frozen and many canned fruits and vegetables. There is a growing appetite at the federal level to make the so-called “WIC Bump” permanent. The monthly amounts that can be used at any WIC vendor in Illinois is $24 for children, $43 for pregnant/postpartum women, and $47 for breastfeeding participants.
WIC, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requires the household earns less than or equal to 185% of the poverty level. A family of four, with the pregnant participant counting as two, can earn $51,338 a year. WIC pumps more than $2 million into the local economy.
The county’s main WIC clinic is at the health department, 2112 25th Ave., Rock Island. A second clinic is housed at Community Health Care in Moline, 1106 4th Ave., Moline, and is open to established participants. Appointments are not required at the Rock Island clinic, but can be made by calling 309-794-7070. Walk-in hours are 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. in Rock Island. The Moline clinic encourages participants make appointments by calling 563-327-2074. Moline hours are 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Both clinics take a lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m.
For certifying appointments, families need to bring proof of identify, including driver’s license, birth certificates, or LINK or Medicaid cards; proof of residency from last 30 days, including a piece of official mail; and proof of income, including paycheck stubs, unemployment benefits, Social Security letter, or LINK or Medicaid cards. Proof of pregnancy from a medical provider is required for pregnant participants; pregnancy tests also are available. A $5 fee for a pregnancy test can be waived.
Participants must visit the clinic every 6 months for a height and weight check. WIC clinics perform finger pokes annually to assess participants’ iron status. We also draw a small amount of blood from 1- and 2-year-olds to screen for lead poisoning, which is a major concern in Rock Island County because of our older housing stock. Any home built before 1978 could have lead paint in it, and no amount of lead is safe in a child’s body. WIC staff also will ask questions about participants’ diets.
“In-office appointments normally take about an hour, but we need clients to know that the first in-person appointments in more than two years might take a little longer,” Hill said. “During the pandemic, many families have put off critical well-child health visits, so we want to make sure our children are growing, getting immunized against childhood diseases and are screened for low iron levels in their blood. Iron deficiency in children is a common problem that can cause poor appetite, fatigue, behavioral problems and frequent infections.”
Families must call WIC every three months to continue to receive benefits. Every six months, all participants are asked to come into the clinic with required documentation. However, three-month appointments for nutrition education can be done over the phone in about 15 minutes. These lessons also can be completed online at wichhealth.org. Participants will need to call WIC after they complete the online lesson for benefits to be loaded on their WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.
Clients can check their WIC benefits on a smartphone app, called BNFT, that is available in the Apple App Store or Google Play. Clients can scan grocery items to see if they can be purchased with their WIC card. All fresh fruits and vegetables that are not pre-cut or bagged are eligible. The client’s benefit balance also is printed on the store receipt.
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.