Alabama’s WIC program transitioning to electronic transfer cards
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris announced the beginning of Alabama’s eWIC pilot project which will be launched in two phases starting today. Participants in the Alabama WIC Program in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties are being issued the state’s first eWIC electronic benefit transfer cards.
WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services. The mission of the WIC Program is to improve the health and nutritional status of women, infants and children during critical times of growth and development.
Through this new system, benefits for WIC-approved foods are automatically entered onto a card that is similar to a debit card. This card replaces the current paper-based food instruments and cash-value vouchers which are redeemed at WIC-authorized stores statewide. Each month more than 120,000 Alabama participants at nutritional risk receive WIC benefits through all county health departments and with two private local agencies. There are currently 638 WIC-authorized stores in the state. In 2018, participants redeemed almost $97 million in food instruments at WIC-authorized stores statewide.
Alabama WIC Program Director Amanda Martin said, “I want to thank all of the program staff that have been involved with eWIC implementation and our clinic staff who see participants daily to provide WIC services. We have been working towards this milestone since 2009 and are extremely happy to begin this pilot.”
Recognizing the value of eWIC, the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that each state WIC agency implement an electronic benefit transfer system throughout the state by October 1, 2020.
Stacey Neumann, WIC Vendor Management director and eWIC project manager, said, “We are very excited to begin our eWIC pilot. Vendor enablement is a key piece to implementing eWIC. I want to thank all our authorized WIC vendors for their hard work in preparing for eWIC implementation.”
EWIC will bring many benefits to WIC participants and authorized WIC vendors. These benefits include:
- Less stigma for the WIC participants
- Smoother transaction at the register
- Reduced time “in lane”
- Automatic electronic payments to the vendors
Ellie Taylor, Alabama Grocers Association president, said, “AGA was proud to partner with the Alabama Department of Public Health, WIC Division, on the planning and implementation of eWIC in our state. For retailers and WIC participants, eWIC will be a tremendous improvement to the overall shopping experience with smoother transactions at the register, streamlining of processing, and reduced checkout times. Our retailers are excited to move forward with eWIC as we continue to offer quality customer service to all Alabama consumers.”
The second phase of the eWIC rollout will begin April 1, and includes the remainder of the counties in the East Central and the Northeastern districts of the Alabama Department of Public Health. These are Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Etowah, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties. The pilot area has 36,000 participants, 27 clinics and 192 authorized WIC vendors.
After the pilot, implementation in other districts is scheduled as follows:
- June: Northern District (approximately 24,961 participants, 15 clinics, 143 WIC vendors)
- July: West Central and Jefferson Districts (approximately 24,967 participants, 20 clinics, 130 WIC vendors)
- August: Southeastern, Mobile and Southwestern Districts (approximately 34,292 participants, 35 clinics, 174 WIC vendors)
Contact your county health department for more information or visit alabamapublichealth.gov/WIC.
eWIC Transaction at Eastbrook Food Outlet in Montgomery, Alabama
2019 BUY ALABAMA’S BEST RETAIL CAMPAIGN LAUNCH AWARDS
2018 DISPLAY CONTEST WINNERS & PRESENTS CHECK
TO CHILDREN’S OF ALABAMA FOR $51,639
The 2019 Buy Alabama’s Best Retail Campaign Launch Awards luncheon was recently held at The Club. The group is made up of the Alabama Grocers Association, the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, and the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association.
Presentations were made by Commissioner Rick Pate, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; Mrs. Ellie Taylor, President, Alabama Grocers Association; Mr. Frank D’Amico, III of BTC Wholesale Distributors and Chairman, Alabama Grocers Association; Mr. Johnny Collins of Dean Foods and President, Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association; and Dr. Frederick Goldman, MD, Director, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program, Children’s of Alabama. Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association members as well as retailers and wholesalers throughout the state of Alabama were also in attendance.
Commissioner Rick Pate, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; Mr. Johnny Collins, President, Alabama Food Manufactures and Producers Association; and Mr. Frank D’Amico, III, Chairman, Alabama Grocers Association, presented Display Contest Award Certificates for 2018.
These displays featured participating Alabama food products to help consumers identify which products are headquartered, produced or manufactured in the state of Alabama. First Place awards were given to Gardendale Foodland.
During the months of March and September, a portion of the sales of participating Alabama food product companies along with retail sales of icons were raised for the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Children’s of Alabama.
A check was presented to Dr. Frederick Goldman in the amount of $51,639 for 2018. Since 2006, the Buy Alabama’s Best Campaign has raised $777,672 to fight pediatric cancer.
“This generous donation from local Alabama businesses associated with the Alabama Grocers Association will help us meet our mission of working to cure every child with cancer,” said Goldman. “Children’s of Alabama is working to find a cure each and every day.”
Following the presentation, a buffet featuring all Alabama food products was enjoyed by those in attendance.
“From early on, Milo’s Tea has been proud to be a part of the Alabama Food Manufacturers and Producers Association,” said Mike Hanson, Director Key Accounts of Milo’s Tea. “The organization emphasizes the importance of teamwork between manufacturers and retailers in the state of Alabama, and Milo’s Tea is proud to stand alongside the organization as they give back to the community through the Buy Alabama’s Best campaign.”
Milo’s Tea Company is a family-owned, certified Woman-Owned Business located in Bessemer, AL. Milo’s was founded as a restaurant in 1946 by Milo and Bea Carlton after Milo returned from serving our country in World War II. Milo’s philosophy was simple – use high quality, fresh, natural ingredients, listen to your customers and never sacrifice taste. In 1989, Milo’s began selling their fresh brewed Famous Sweet Tea to local Birmingham grocery stores and now Milo’s beverages can be found in thousands of retailers across the United States. Milo and Bea’s vision still guides the company today as Milo’s continues to source natural ingredients, fresh brew all of their teas and never use colors, added acids or preservatives. Milo’s Famous Sweet Tea is now the #1 Selling Refrigerated Tea in the US and Milo’s products can be found in more than 13,000 retail locations across 45 states.
The purpose of the Buy Alabama’s Best Campaign is to identify and increase awareness of Alabama food products and increase sales of those products. Alabama food product sales have a $2 billion impact in Alabama’s economy, tax base and along with the food service industries, employ one out of every four Alabamians.
For further information contact Ellie Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.buyalabamasbest.com.
For more photos, please visit our Facebook Page at: https://www.facebook.com/BuyAlabamasBest/
eWIC Questions and Concerns
As the eWIC Pilot Phase 1 will begin on March 4 in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties, the AGA is receiving numerous questions and concerns regarding this important change. We have created a flyer that should answer the vast majority of your questions that you can download and give to all your store personnel. In addition, Alabama WIC has given us permission to go ahead and send out the required Alabama eWIC Vendor Training that all stores will be required to use in training store personnel. PLEASE NOTE: Only vendors in Phase 1 and 2 of the Pilot have received their official training information from the State WIC Office. The others will receive the information two months out from their rollout date. Each vendor is required to register in the Department’s LCMS and complete a training acknowledgement form documenting they viewed the training session to receive credit. This information will be outlined in the official notification that you receive. Since each cash register system is different, the state WIC office training does not cover how to conduct a transaction in your specific system. It is up to you to provide a hands on training for your specific system. Please have all store personnel watch and understand this training prior to your eWIC rollout. This training can be found at –
Windows Media Streaming File:
In addition, there have been many questions regarding the mapping of seasonal or store specific UPCs to approved International Federation of Produce Standards (IFPS) PLU codes. For corporate stores this will normally be handled at the corporate office and for independents, this will need to be done at the store level. Attached is the current Alabama PLU list. PLEASE NOTE: This was taken from the WIC MIS and includes a dash and check digit. The actual APL file will not contain the dash. You will receive the actual APL file through your TPP from Conduent. Please do not use this list in your system but only use it to identify Alabama PLUs as the APL file will not contain a dash.
If you have any questions please contact Stacey Neumann, Vendor Management Director at 334.206.7955 or email@example.com or you can submit specific questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the state’s website at https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/wic/ewic-vendors.html.
ALABAMA GROCERS ASSOCIATION PARTICIPATES IN THE INAUGURATION EVENTS
The Alabama Grocers Association was proud to join with the Agriculture Community to host a series of Inaugural Day events for our new Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate. Events included a breakfast, swearing-in ceremony, parade and open house at the Richard Beard Building. The open house featured all Alabama products through our very own Buy Alabama’s Best Program. Agriculture groups involved included Alabama AG Credit, Alabama Agribusiness Council, Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, Alabama Farm Credit, Alabama Farm Credit, Alabama Farmers Cooperative, Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Forestry Association, Alabama Grocers Association, Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association, Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, and First South Farm Credit.
We are looking forward to forging ahead with our relationships and building new ones with first year elected officials alike. We all know how important the grass roots efforts are in our industry so if you have any connections to any newly elected officials, please let us know. We would like to build on those relationships and keep the mission of AGA, to promote the growth and success of the grocery industry, at the forefront as we begin this new year.