Due to the transition to a retail food system via an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is preparing to close 13 food centers. These food centers have low participant usage, or the landlord has chosen not to continue the lease.
Twelve food centers, including those located in Rosedale, Ruleville, Okolona, Ackerman, Hollandale, Leland, Raymond, Dekalb, Raleigh, Eupora, Columbus and Southaven are scheduled to close September 30. One food center located in New Albany is scheduled to close December 31.
Food centers located in Rosedale, Ruleville, Okolona, Ackerman, Hollandale, Leland, Raymond, Dekalb and Raleigh are being closed due to low participant usage. Food centers located in New Albany, Eupora, Columbus, and Southaven are being closed per landlord request, as these leases are scheduled to expire September 30.
“We are continuing to seek alternate locations in Columbus and Southaven,” said Diane Hargrove, Director of the MSDH WIC program. “We are also surveying WIC participants in New Albany and Eupora to determine unique ways to deliver food benefits and ensure access.”
The last date for WIC participants to pick up foods at the sites closing September 30 is August 28, and the last date for participants to pick up at the food center closing December 31 is November 25. However, participants are still eligible to pick up at any other food center they have access to in the state.
As the WIC program prepares to begin the transition from the use of paper food vouchers at food centers to the use of eWIC cards at retail grocery stores and pharmacies, it’s also working hard to ensure participants still have access to the supplemental foods they qualify for. The eWIC card will be piloted as early as January 2021.
“We know this will be a challenge for some of our participants and we are doing everything that we can to supply them nutritious foods the best way that we can during this transition,” said Jameshyia Ballard, WIC Vendor Director.
The goal of the WIC program is to provide nutrition education, breastfeeding support and supplemental food for eligible pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to the age of 5. The MSDH WIC program is working to ensure participants have an available food center within 30 miles of each WIC clinic.