STOCKTON, Calif. — A big boost is on the way, starting in June, for women and children who receive WIC benefits.
The benefit increase is being paid for by the American Rescue Plan and will be available from June to September. WIC recipients don’t need to do anything to get the extra money, it will be automatically loaded onto their accounts starting in June.
Right now, women in the program receive $11 per month for fresh fruit and vegetables, while children receive $9 per month. Andrea Weiss, the WIC program manager for Community Medical Centers, WIC in San Joaquin County said the temporary increase to $35 will be big for WIC families.
“A majority of our families have multiple participants on the program,” Weiss said. “So, they could see an increase of up to $90 or more per month and fresh produce to use for their families.”
Weiss said the additional money for fruits and vegetables is needed because fresh produce can be tough to afford.
“So often fresh produce is really expensive in the stores. And so, they have less access, in general [than] higher-income families,” Weiss said. “And so, this just allows our families to have access to produce.”
And another difficulty some families face is access.
“Our downtown Stockton location, I would say, it is a food desert. I have to drive probably at least five miles to the nearest grocery store,” Weiss said. “So, for a WIC family who may have limited access to transportation, it is more difficult to find fruits and vegetables.”
WIC families can also take advantage of the Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which is returning this summer. It offers additional benefits that can be used at farmers' markets in their area.
“They're able to receive a booklet of up to $28 to use at farmers' markets throughout their county in California,” Weiss said. “So, this is just another way that our program markets and encourages families to use fruits and vegetables and also to support our local farmers as well.”
The program is limited, so interested families will want to reach out to their local program manager.
Weiss is also a registered dietician and has some tips every parent can use to encourage their kids to eat more fruits and vegetables:
- Have fruit washed/cut and readily available on the counter or in the fridge
- Make frozen fruit popsicles
- Add more vegetables to salads
- Bring your kids grocery shopping and let them pick a new fruit or vegetable to try
“We know that when children are part of the process, part of the cooking process or preparing the fresh fruits and vegetables, they're much more likely to try those vegetables as well,” Weiss said.
If you would like more information about WIC programs in California here are some resources: