Do you have suggestions for the Vermont WIC approved foods list?

The Vermont WIC program is accepting new food submissions for consideration for addition to our Approved Products List (APL) from now until March 31, 2016.barcodes

We are more than half-way through our rollout of eWIC, and we are learning about new products as new stores are authorized as WIC retailers. We will be updating the WIC Food Guide for families and retailers to incorporate these new items, and would like to work with our food industry partners to ensure we have current UPCs for your products in addition to adding any other new products that meet WIC criteria.

We want to be able to offer as much variety and flexibility to our WIC families so are happy to consider including any products that are WIC-eligible.

Please follow the instructions that are posted on our web page: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/documents/Missed_UPC_guidance.pdf.

You can access our current list of products on our website under Vermont UPC List: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/vendors.aspx or the Vermont Approved Products List: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/eWICGrocers.aspx

If you have any questions please email Jackie.Charnley@vermont.gov.

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eWIC Grocer Rollout Complete for Four WIC Districts

Vermont WIC has completed certification of all grocers for two more WIC districts:  Bennington and Springfield. Adding in our Rutland pilot grocers, this brings out total of operational eWIC stores to 26.

  • Four stores are using eWIC stand-beside technology
  • Twenty-two stores are using eWIC integrated Point of Sale (POS) systems.

We are currently working with stores very close to ready for certification in the Brattleboro and White River Junction districts. Some smaller independent stores in those districts are working toward eWIC integration of their POS systems, and others are working to incorporate the stand-beside technology into their in-lane process. This is quite a feat to take on during this busy holiday season, and we are very grateful for their efforts, and their desire to serve WIC families. We expect all stores in these two districts to be certified by the end of December.

Our next rollout district is St. Johnsbury, where new families will start receiving Vermont WIC Cards 12/14, and the entire caseload will have cards for January 1, 2016 shopping. Only one store in that district is still working toward eWIC integration; the others are certified and ready to accept cards.

Thanks again to all of our grocers working with us to implement eWIC in Vermont, enabling the program to move from home delivery to retail distribution of WIC foods to over 10,000 Vermont families.amy_January 11, 2015111802

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What is “Not to Exceed” Pricing All About?

As we roll-out, more grocers are asking us about Not-to-Exceed pricing, how it works, and what it means to them.

  • Federal rules require each eWIC program to establish Not-to-Exceed (NTE) prices at the UPC level for all foods on the state’s Approved Products List
  • WIC will pay what the grocer charges, up to the NTE, for eligible WIC foods
  • The NTE is initially established by price surveys conducted at a sample of WIC stores.
  • WIC stores are grouped into “peer groups” based on size and corporate structure. Vermont WIC’s peer groups are small independent, large independent, small chain, large chain, superstore. Each peer group has its own NTEs for each WIC product. So, for example, the NTE for a half-gallon of low-fat milk is different for small independents than it is for superstores.
  • Every day, a WIC staff person reviews the prior days’ settlements for any transactions where the NTE was applied. The NTE price is evaluated and may be reset if it appears that an industry-wide price increase is trending, or it was otherwise in need of adjustment moving forward.amy_January 11, 2015121359
  • Eventually, when many more transactions are recorded in the eWIC database,  automated resets can be triggered to adjust NTEs to reflect market pricing. At this point, however, WIC staff make manual adjustments as indicated to reflect market changes.
  • If an NTE is applied in a transaction in the lane, that item is flagged on the receipt with an asterisk. Grocers with an WIC-integrated POS can review their own POS transaction/settlement history to see details. In stores using eWIC stand-beside devices, the grocer can log in to the Xerox Retailer Portal to review the transaction history, and see the price requested versus the settlement price for items.

Grocers should remember that the prices charged to WIC participants cannot be different than prices charged to any other customers. (This is a federal non-discrimination rule). Also, if the NTE is applied to a price, the part WIC does not pay cannot be charged to the WIC participant.

Questions? Email them to wic@vermont.gov.

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Remember to map incoming fresh produce to PLU 4469 for eWIC

Recently a WIC shopper tried to purchase a box of clementines, but the grocer POS rejected them. PLUsTurns out the UPC for this “new” product offering had not been mapped to the eWIC generic PLU 4469.

This is just a reminder to everyone that all fresh produce — be it loose, bagged, or boxed, does need to be mapped to PLU 4469 in your POS for eWIC, prior to being put on the shelf.

For grocers using state-supplied WIC stand-beside devices, all fresh produce must be entered in that device using 4469 for WIC.

Questions? Email them to wic@vermont.gov.

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VT WIC Fruit and Veggie Cards Active Until End of Rollout

We’d like to remind our grocer network that until May 2016 VT EBT Cardthere will still be some Vermont WIC families with active WIC Fruit and Veggie cards, and these cards should still be honored.  Even if your region’s District Office has stopped issuing F&V cards and begun issuance of the new eWIC cards, families from later rollout districts may still be patronizing your stores. So, please, advise cashiers and managers that Vermont WIC fruit and veggie cards are to be accepted through April 2016.

Program integrity is guaranteed because as soon as a family is issued a new WIC card, there are no longer any benefit available in the “old” F&V card food account. If they swipe the card in the SNAP system, a “no benefits” message will be returned.

If you have questions, please contact wic@vermont.gov

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Changes to VT WIC Approved Products List

Vermont WIC has made a few changes to the Approved Products List (APL).

  1. 64 oz juices:  Previously, Welch’s and Old Orchard 64 oz juices were approved in “Any Flavor.” Unfortunately, some are not WIC eligible. The following are now the only Welch’s and Old Orchard flavors in 64 oz shelf stable bottles approved in Vermont:
    1. Welch’s
      • Grape Juice (no light, no fiber, no calcium)grapejuices
      • 100% White Grape Juice
      • 100% Red Grape Juice
    2. Old Orchard
      • Apple
      • Apple Cranberry
      • Berry Blend

This change affects ONLY Welch’s and Old Orchard brands. Other listed brands are still eligible in Any Flavor.

 

  1. Ensure and Ensure Plus (six pack of 8 oz) have been added to the “Infant Formulas and Nutritionals” section of the APL.

These changes take effect immediately. The APL posted on our WIC Vendor webpage has been updated, and appropriate changes made to the UPC database as well. If you have questions, please direct them to Jackie.Charnley@vermont.gov.

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PLUs in the Vermont eWIC System

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 arrivedPLU 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 wic@vermont.gov.

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Adding, Changing, and Deleting Food Items on the Approved Products List

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.)UPCpile

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

 

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Rolling toward Rollout – Grocer Liaison Contact Information

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)
Bennington (10/15/2015)
Springfield (11/1/2015)
Brattleboro (11/15/2015)
White River Junction (12/1/2015)
St. Johnsbury (12/15/2015)
Newport (1/15/2015)
Morrisville (2/1/2015)
St. Albans (2/15/2015)
Burlington (3/1/2015)
Barre (3/15/2015)
Middlebury (4/1/2015)

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.

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Announcing the Vermont WIC Shopper App

A quick barcode scan identifies Vermont WIC Approved Foods!

To make it easier for WIC shoppers to identify approved products in the store, Vermont wicshopperWIC 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:

Screenshot_2015-09-01-14-29-32Screenshot_2015-09-01-14-28-47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note the following limitations:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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 wic@vermont.gov

 

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