Grocers in Vermont deal with hundreds, if not thousands of ever-changing Price Look-Up codes (PLUs). When Vermont WIC began the process of creating our Approved Products List (APL), nutrition staff collected PLUs from chains, wholesalers, and independent stores. At the height of the collection process, our APL contained thousands of PLUs, and was already out of date. How would grocers tell us when produce with new PLUs arrived on the shelves? How would WIC process this constant stream of changes? This was not going to be sustainable.
Looking at what other state eWIC programs were doing, we learned that USDA/FNS allows states to use the single generic PLU 4469 for all fresh produce, and required all grocers to “map” their own PLUs to 4469 for eWIC transactions.(44691 for systems using “check digit” version) Given the difficulty for grocers and WIC to maintain current data, Vermont WIC decided to exercise this option. Vermont WIC’s APL would contain only two PLUs for all fresh produce, whether identified in the store by PLU or UPC (e.g. bagged lettuce, carrots, etc): 4469 and 44691.
The impact of this on your store depend on whether a store uses a WIC stand-beside device, or has an integrated POS system.
- For Standbesides: when cashiers enter the item in the WIC device, they must always use PLU 4469 for fresh produce, regardless of the store’s own PLU or UPC for that item. This includes loose as well as packaged fresh produce, like bagged lettuce which may have UPC codes on the bag. The instructions for the eWIC device explain this in more detail.Use of 4469 applies ONLY to using the eWIC device. To repeat: when ringing up the items in your own store system, cashiers use the same PLUs the store always uses.
- For integrated stores: An eWIC-integrated POS system is programmed to convert the store PLUs into the generic 4469 (or 44691 for those POS systems that use a check digit) before sending the transaction message to the WIC host computer. If a store is part of a chain, the corporate IT takes care of this. If store uses a Value Added Reseller (VAR – a POS vendor, such as Dumac or C-stars) for the POS system, ask that POS vendor for more information. (Either the store’s POS vendor will either do this “mapping,” or provide instructions for store personnel to set this up.) Important note: This does not require a store to change the PLUs they normally use. The store PLU database will remain intact, and cashiers will continue to use store PLUs. Those PLUs will be converted automatically by the POS (“behind the scenes”), before sending the transaction message to the WIC host.
The bottom line for both types of systems is that stores do NOT need to change the internal system for assigning, tracking, and pricing PLUs. Only the transaction message sent to Vermont’s eWIC system needs to use PLU 4469 or 44691. Any questions? Reach us at email@example.com.
While Vermont WIC has worked for over a year to develop a comprehensive APL and UPC database prior to pilot and rollout of eWIC, there may be items we’ve missed, or that you’ve added to inventory since we started this work.
We are adding items every day to the APL, as gaps appear. That’s why it’s very important for stores with integrated eWIC POS systems to download the APL every day from Xerox. (If you are using one of our stand-beside devices, that download is automatic.)
But what if you want us to add or change something on the APL? Now that we’ve printed our first Vermont WIC Program & Food Guide for participants, some “rules” have been established for ongoing maintenance of the APL and the UPC database. If you want us to add, change, or remove a food item, here’s what you need to know:
- If the item is in a category in our APL where we accept “any brand,” then we can add items now. (Eggs, Milk, Beans-Lentils-Peas are examples. Nutritional variety does not vary by product brand/name, so all brands/items are accepted.)
- If the brand and food “name” is specifically identified in the APL category, items in that category cannot be changed until next year when we reprint our guide. (e.g. Bread, cereal, baby foods for example.Nutritional value of specific item must be evaluated, and item specifically identified in our printed participant guide.
- If, however, the name, brand, and/or UPC of an existing accepted food item is changed (e.g. change of name of store brands, or new UPC for existing accepted item), then we will make those changes now. We want participants to be able to purchase items that are shown in our guide.
To put in a request for an item to be added (now or next year), please use the instructions you’ll find here: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/documents/Missed_UPC_guidance.pdf
UPDATE 9/16/2015: It’s Official! FNS has given Vermont permission to go from pilot to rollout.
Thanks to staff and participants who tested eWIC in our Rutland district pilot, Vermont WIC is now authorized by FNS to move to statewide rollout! WIC staff and participants are getting ready for our first district rollout in the Bennington region, with the new Vermont WIC cards “hitting the streets” around October 15th. Participants are attending Learning Sessions, District Office Grocer Liaisons have been identified to provide support to grocers in their region, and our EBT contractor is supporting stand-beside technology and integrated eWIC in stores.
In store visits to confirm Minimum Inventory requirements are met, WIC staff are working with grocers to identify gaps. We are finding that key areas for grocers to watch are:
- Breads. Vermont WIC has authorized several brands/types, and they are ALL 16 oz loaves of whole wheat bread. That’s key: 16 oz loaves. We believe we’ve captured in our UPC database /Approved Products List all qualifying 16 oz loaves, but if you find one we should add, follow the instructions here to submit your suggestion.
- Baby Formula. Vermont WIC has authorized formulas based on our competitively bid contract with Abbott. Several formulas are authorized, but one is used much more than any other, and it is the only formula required for Minimum Inventory.
Abbott Similac Advance, Powder, 12.4 oz can. UPC 070074559582
- Juice. Note that both 64 oz and 48 oz shelf stable or refrigerated juice sizes are required
If your store has questions about Minimum Inventory requirements, please contact your District Office Grocer Liaison. Click on the appropriate name below to open an email. The date next to the District Office name is the first expected date for Vermont WIC card issuance in that region.
Vermont WIC District Office Grocer Liaisons:
Rutland (active card issuance started 6/2015)
White River Junction (12/1/2015)
St. Johnsbury (12/15/2015)
St. Albans (2/15/2015)
And don’t forget about the new WICshopper app that you can download and use to scan barcodes of foods on the shelf for Vermont WIC eligibility.
A quick barcode scan identifies Vermont WIC Approved Foods!
To make it easier for WIC shoppers to identify approved products in the store, Vermont WIC has subscribed to the WIC Shopper App. An added bonus is that WIC grocers can use it too!
Download the FREE app from the App Store or Google Play. Select “Vermont” as the WIC provider. You can either scan a barcode (using the device camera) or key enter a barcode. Almost immediately a screen message will display if the item is Vermont WIC eligible or not. If an item is allowed, similar approved items are also displayed by name and bar code. If an item is not allowed, the display will so indicate. Here are screen-captures of both types of displays:
Please note the following limitations:
- The WICShopper app currently will only identify if a food is WIC-approved. It does not tell a WIC family whether that food is in the family’s assigned food package. The WIC participant needs a printed Family Food List to see which foods to shop for. (Can be printed by balance inquiry using POS/card reader.)
- The WICShopper app does NOT work for any FRESH fruits and vegetables. This is because Vermont WIC does not maintain those UPCs and PLUs in our database. Consult the WIC Program and Food Guide for fresh produce eligibility. Basically, with some restrictions: Any variety of fresh, organic or non-organic, fruits and vegetables, including fresh potatoes, are allowed. They may be whole, cut, bagged, or packaged.
Please share this information with your store personnel. When eWIC rolls out statewide, this app will be a handy way to quickly assist WIC shoppers with food eligibility questions.
Questions or problems with the app? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have three minutes to learn about eWIC in Vermont? The new Vermont WIC video “Shopping with WIC is Fun!” is available on YouTube. It’s a quick and entertaining introduction to how families will use their Vermont WIC cards in authorized stores. It’s a great orientation for all grocer staff: managers, supervisors, and cashiers. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y11Q-CnKPg&feature=youtu.be
With approval expected from FNS, Vermont WIC will move from pilot to rollout starting in Bennington and Springfield regions in October 2015. To learn more, visit the EBT Project website: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/MISEBT_Project.aspx
There is also a page specifically for eWIC grocers, containing links to the Approved Products List and Minimum Inventory Requirements.
Questions? Send them to: email@example.com
Follow this link for the minutes. Use the directory in the right-hand column for earlier minutes.
Thanks for your interest and support of WIC in Vermont.
Hello! It’s time for the quarterly VT WIC Retailer Advisory Council conference call:
July 9, 2015
12:30pm – 1:30pm
Call in: 1-877-273-4202
Conf. Rm. ID – 520 96 20 #
- Call to Order and Welcome – Patrick Henry, VT WIC
- Project Status – Patrick Henry, VT WIC
- Pilot started June 1 in Rutland
- Pilot continues through September 2015
- Rollout to other Districts begins October with Bennington, then Springfield
- Retailer eWIC Integration/Certification Updates – Sylvia Mitchem, Xerox (eWIC Contractor)
- Criteria for Selection of Approved WIC Foods – Karen Flynn, VT WIC
- Questions and next meeting – Patrick Henry, VT WIC
As always, we invite all our retail partners and store personnel to listen in, ask questions, and stay informed about our eWIC implementation. Minutes of the meeting will be sent out shortly afterwards.
The new Vermont WIC card
Vermont WIC is proud and excited to announce that USDA-Food and Nutrition Service has given us “Go to Pilot” approval for our migration from 35-year old computer mainframe-based record-keeping to a new “paperless” WIC management information system, and our migration from home delivery of WIC foods to a retail grocery store EBT, or “eWIC” system.
The pilot of both systems will take place in the Rutland District Office of the Vermont Department of Health, with the support of retail grocers in that region. Pilot will kick off the first week in June, with training of local WIC staff on eWIC and the new WIC management information system, dubbed “Ceres,” after the goddess of agriculture and maternal love. (She’s the golden statue on top of Vermont’s State House.)
Vermont WIC cards will be issued to new families certified by the Rutland District Office in June, and mailed to existing Rutland area WIC families for use starting July 1.
Retailers have also been busy preparing. New agreements between WIC and the retailers needed to be executed; site visits were necessary to confirm the necessary inventory of WIC foods are stocked; WIC needs to confirm that the store is ready for the WIC families’ eWIC cards. All of this will also be completed by the end of May.
Stores in the Rutland region participating in our pilot will include:
- Price Chopper
- Benson General Store
Rollout to other regions of the state should begin in October this year, starting with Bennington and Springfield.
Vermont WIC has also produced an engaging video for WIC participants about shopping with the WIC card, which might also be of interest to retailers and their staff. You can watch the video on the Vermont WIC website:
Click on this link to read the minutes of the April 9th 2015 meeting.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org