DES MOINES, Iowa — The first of the month is an important day for 35,000 Iowa households that participate in the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children, known as WIC.
“Pregnant women postpartum with infants or children up to 5 years old,” said Kenny Kane the Iowa WIC Vendor Coordinator with the Iowa Department of Public Health.
WIC items provide healthy and nutritional foods and can often be brand or size specific. For example, the peanut butter has to be store brand and eggs can only be ‘Grade A Large.’
Communities and families that rely on WIC have become worried that panic buying will deplete the specific items they are only allowed to purchase. “We saw a very large spike a couple weeks ago with some panic buying, and I think that generated some of the rumors that food was running out at stores,” said Kane.
Thankfully for these families, the rumors of WIC items being depleted are unfounded. Kane said, “Being the first tomorrow, there generally is a higher WIC redemption when the benefits get reloaded and we want to assure everybody that the food supply is strong.”
Fareway stocks WIC items at 13 of its Polk County locations and Hy-Vee at 18 and assures food distribution daily. “What I can tell you is Hy-Vee is receiving shipments every day at their stores and are constantly restocking. Not just at night but during the day as soon as they receive a truck,” said Christina Gayman, Director of Public Relations for Hy-Vee.
For shoppers relying on WIC who remain worried, pregnant mothers who do qualify for the program are included on many of the stores’ special early morning hours. “We do have a reserve shopping hour in the morning 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. seven days a week for what we are calling our special shopping hours,” Gayman said.
Another worry during the pandemic was if WIC would be discontinued. On March 18, President Donald Trump’s signing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act guaranteed the program through Sept. 30 of 2021. “The WIC benefits are going to be there throughout this month, the next month and the program is not going anywhere,” said Kane.
Grocery stores reminding everyone that we are all in this together and to shop sensibly. “Certainly we are encouraging preparation but not panic. Purchase what you need. We will be constantly restocking everyday,” said Gayman.
There has also been talk to discourage non-WIC shoppers from purchasing WIC items, but stores are not required to label price tags any differently. If an item is unavailable, contact the store’s director and they will do their best to have it available from another location.