MCHD WIC is reopening Aug. 1; weekly drive-through events held in July
Jul. 1, 2021
By Mary Wade Burnside
It’s been nearly a year and a half since Monongalia County Health Department’s six Women, Infants, & Children’s offices have opened their doors to participants.
Luckily, like many others dealing with the pandemic, technology has come in handy so that the federal food assistance program, officially titled the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), could continue to operate.
Food supplements funds are loaded onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, and WIC already had introduced an app called Pacify that provides 24/7 breastfeeding support for mothers. And signups and counseling took place over the phone.
But breastfeeding classes, which were open to anyone, not just participants who qualify for WIC, have been shut down in all six counties in which MCHD WIC operates: Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison, Doddridge and Taylor.
“And we’ve missed seeing our participants face-to-face,” said Cami Haught, MCHD WIC’s program director.
Slowly, however, that’s all going to change. Starting Aug. 1, the offices in Morgantown, Kingwood, Fairmont, Bridgeport, West Union and Grafton will re-open.
For one month, Haught said, only new participants will be visiting the offices to sign up. “And then, on Sept. 1, we will be opening 100%.”
WIC offers nutritional counseling and benefits, breastfeeding counseling and support and health screenings, immunizations and referrals, to those who qualify.
Those who qualify for WIC are individuals who meet income guidelines and also are:
• Pregnant women
• Women breastfeeding an infant up to the infant’s first birthday
• Postpartum women up to six months after delivery or end of pregnancy
• Infants up to their first birthday
• Children from age one until their fifth birthday
Income guidelines are updated yearly and are generous. Gross annual income for a family of one is $23,828 or under; for two, $32,227; for three, $40,626 and for four, $49,025. You can see the full list on our website.
For those who might be interested in joining when offices reopen, here’s how the initial visit will go.
“New participants come in and bring in their pay stubs,” Haught said. “If they are on Medicaid, they will automatically qualify.”
After participants qualify, all participants — mothers and children — move on to the lab, where a technician gets a weight, height and performs a finger stick to get iron levels.
“Then they go to see a nutritionist, and they’re going to ask them some questions about their diet and fruits and vegetables consumption, and dairy consumption and sweetened drinks, if they smoke or consume alcohol before or during the pregnancy,” Haught said.
The nutritionist will then go over the nutrition package with the participant. Foods that can be purchased with WIC benefits have been expanded in recent years and include not only fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, peanut butter and dairy and bread items, but also frozen fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and a wider selection of whole wheat grain options and breakfast cereals.
And about two years ago, Once Upon a Farm items, created by actress and West Virginia native Jennifer Garner, also made it to the WIC list.
Finally, if the participant is or will be breastfeeding, she would meet with a breastfeeding counselor. “If they are pregnant, they talk about breastfeeding and what to expect, and if she has delivered, they can help with latching and positioning, and they can check if baby is receiving enough breast milk,” Haught said.
After that initial assessment, the participant will have an appointment every three months. Every other appointment is an online assessment, so participants generally only need to visit their local WIC office twice a year.
MCHD WIC also celebrates Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is August. Prior to the pandemic, this was done with an annual walk and event at the WVU Erickson Alumni Center. After skipping these events in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic, it will be returning in 2022.
And even though WIC doesn’t reopen until Aug. 1, there will be weekly drive-through events at each office every Thursday in July.
Last week’s event was held in Marion County. The other events will be held from 4-6 p.m. July 8, Cornerstone Community Church in Preston County; 4-6 p.m. July 15, Blueville Church of the Nazarene in Taylor County; 3-6 p.m. July 22, Clarksburg City Park for Harrison/Doddridge counties and 3-6 p.m. July 29 at the MCHD WIC office in Morgantown.
Participants will receive a goody bag with items such as a WIC cup and a book, such as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” or “Monsters Don’t Eat Broccoli.”
“We just want to get people excited about being able to come to the clinic again and to let more people know that we are here,” Haught said. “We want to encourage everyone to come out and get signed up on the program if they do qualify.”
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.