September 10, 2019
County of Santa Clara Public Health Department
Office: (408) 792-5155
Low-Income Families No Longer Have To Pay for Groceries with WIC Paper Checks
News Release in Spanish
News Release in Vietnamese
Santa Clara County, Calif. – A new benefits card for families in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, is available today from all three WIC agencies in the county: Gardner Health Services, the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley, and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. The new card, which looks like a debit card, is more convenient and easy to use, ensuring that qualifying women who are pregnant or recently had a baby and their children have better access to the healthy foods provided by WIC. Our county leads the way as one of five counties in the Bay Area issuing WIC Cards to all beneficiaries starting now. Cards will become available across the rest of the state later this year.
A federally funded program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the state of California Department of Public Health, WIC provides food, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, and health services through local agencies to low-income families. Approximately 60 percent of all births to state of California residents are eligible for WIC. Families use benefits to purchase specific foods with key nutrients needed by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, infants, and young children.
WIC is not included in the public benefits considered in the “public charge” calculation. Using WIC does not influence whether a person, or their family members, is considered a “public charge” for immigration purposes.
“This program is an investment in all of our families—and their future. All families should have regular access to good, nutritious food and this new WIC card will make it easier for them to achieve this,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “Moving away from paper checks allows more flexibility and destigmatizes the grocery shopping experience. All eligible families throughout Santa Clara County should take full advantage of this important benefit.”
“The WIC Program has been an integral part of the Indian Health Center since 1978, collaborating with our medical department to provide high quality wellness services, promote healthy pregnancies, successful breastfeeding and help raise happy and healthy kids,” said Ira Singh, Chief Operating Officer of the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley. “The Indian Health Center is excited about the new WIC Card implementation and is looking forward in continuing to support WIC families!”
Reymundo Espinoza, Gardner Health Services chief executive officer explained, “WIC is a free supplemental nutrition program that provides nutrition education and breastfeeding support to help families eat healthy and stay well, and WIC is available at Gardner Health Services and across the county. Gardner Health Services is excited to support the implementation of the new WIC Card that replaces the current paper food checks.“
The WIC Card provides more flexible shopping and easier checkout in a more secure format. The card – available now at the 15 WIC offices across the county – replaces the previous paper checks issued to families to purchase the same healthy food options. Families no longer need to buy groceries all at once, as required with the paper checks. Families may load benefits over the phone, rather than collecting them by mail or in person, and they may lock their benefits if a WIC Card is lost, stolen, or damaged. The new card comes with a WIC Phone App to check balance, appointments, stores, and foods from a phone, matching the needs of busy families on-the-go.
“We know that many families struggle to afford healthy food, and we also know that good nutrition in childhood is essential for growth, learning, and good health,” said County of Santa Clara Health Officer and Director of the Public Health Department Dr. Sara Cody. “Young children who miss out on good nutrition experience poorer health for the rest of their lives. The new WIC Card makes healthy eating more accessible for everyone, regardless of income.”
Each month, 20,500 people in Santa Clara County use WIC benefits. More than 120 supermarkets and grocery stores in Santa Clara County participate in the WIC program, which adds an estimated $12.5 million to the local economy each year. In the state of California, WIC serves approximately 1 million participants statewide each month.
The three WIC agencies in Santa Clara County have been preparing participants and staff for the transition to WIC Card for more than six months, with education, outreach, upgrades to information technology, and staff training. Vendor liaison staff contacted all participating supermarkets and grocery stores to ensure they are connected to information from the state of California about the new system and technology.
Extensive research has found WIC to be a cost-effective investment that improves the nutrition and health of low-income families – leading to healthier infants, more breastfeeding, lower health care costs, higher academic achievement for students, and better outcomes for adults who benefited from WIC while they were young children. As a result of the research documenting WIC's effectiveness, Administrations and Congresses of both parties have provided funding since 1974 to ensure that WIC can serve eligible low-income pregnant women and families with infants and young children who apply for it.
Families with gross income of no more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level – currently $47,638 annually for a family of four – are eligible for WIC. Applicants who already receive CalFresh, formerly known as “food stamps,” Medi-Cal, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance are automatically considered income-eligible.
Families interested in applying for or seeing if they qualify for WIC services, should call 1-888-WIC-WORKS, or 1-888-942-9675. WIC continues to prioritize flexibility for working families. WIC offices are open late hours and on weekends to ensure access.
More information is available at:
More information about the California Department of Public Health WIC program: wicworks.ca.gov