March 31, 2016 is my final day as the Program Project Manager for our MIS/EBT rollout, and as an external contractor for Vermont WIC. Rollout will be complete by the end of the week, on time — in fact, on the same timeline our team adopted back in 2012-2013!
Vermont WIC has set up a single WIC email box for all email contact concerning questions, problems, issues, announcements. The (tiny and hardworking) WIC staff take turns monitoring it, and all have access to it. This means they would like ALL communications to come to this single email address, so that everyone can see all of the incoming and outgoing mail, to monitor activity and make sure issues are addressed timely.
We would there ask that starting March 31 any and all communications for VT WIC please be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The WIC team will monitor the mail and will make sure the communication is forwarded to the appropriate subject matter expert. The WIC team includes Karen Flynn, Lynne Bortree, Jen Woodard, Tamela Ross-Little and Jackie Charnley. All communications to WIC state staff need to go to this single email box.
This also means that we’d like you to please make sure that the email address email@example.com is on your “SAFE” list. Please take care of this right away to make sure you don’t miss anything, including replies to your communications. If an email comes to any of you from that email address, it’s an action item or announcement for you.
Personally, I would like to thank all of you for the fine collaboration and support you’ve provided to me and to Vermont WIC during this complicated and rapid rollout of eWIC. All the best to all of you in the coming years.
We are finding that many of the questions about Approved Foods not scanning properly result from a store forgetting that the Vermont WIC Approved Products List (APL) must be downloaded daily. If you use a WIC-provided stand-beside device, this download is automatic as long as the device is plugged in and online. If you use an integrated POS system, make sure you know how and when to trigger the download. (Ask your IT consultant, or corporate IT office.)
Also, please be vigilant about mapping incoming fresh produce – our APL does not include UPCs for bagged/pre-packaged fresh produce, nor do we include all the possible PLUs. The only way fresh produce is identified in our Approved Products List is the single PLU 4469. Therefore, any and all eligible fresh produce – whether bagged, packaged, or loose, MUST be mapped in your integrated POS system to report to WIC as PLU 4469. If you use a WIC-provided stand-beside, key-enter 4469 as the PLU for any fresh produce. No other UPCs or PLUs will be recognized as “WIC approved.”
As Vermont WIC moves from rollout into ongoing eWIC operation, you might have questions about the VT WIC approved foods, such as:
- A product is listed as approved, but when scanned, it is not shown as a WIC item
- A product that seems it should qualify, but isn’t on our Approved Products List (APL), and isn’t scanning as approved
- A product that is scanning as approved, but probably should not be
- A new product that replaces something that formerly was approved, so should be added to our APL
For any of these questions, send an email to the Keeper of the WIC APL: Jackie Charnley firstname.lastname@example.org at the state WIC headquarters.
In your email, please include:
- Product name
- Package size
- UPC number (please give all 12 numbers on the bar code, including the little ones at the beginning and end)
- What is the Category for this product? (Consult our APL for categories)
- Is this a suggested new product? Or is it replacing an existing APL product?
- Did you check the FNS WIC nutrition requirements for this product? If a product isn’t on our APL, it’s probably because it doesn’t meet the standards described at this link.
It is prohibited for WIC retailers to provide cash refunds, cash returns, or cash back on the eWIC card. This is spelled out clearly in the vendor agreement, and is backed by federal law.
If a WIC participant returns a WIC-approved item for any reason, the only authorized response is to exchange the item for an identical item — replace the dented can of Goya black beans with another can of Goya black beans.
The only exception to this important rule is if the item is being returned due to a food safety recall. For example, last week Bumble Bee Foods issued a voluntary recall of three types of their canned chunk light tuna. www.bumblebee.com/recall-march-2016 Two of the recalled codes are on the VT WIC Approved Products List: 086600000206 and 086600000213. If a WIC participant responding to the recall returns those products, they should be exchanged for an equivalent, which would be any canned fish on the Vermont APL (Category 08, Subcategories 001, 002, and 003.) Only in the case of a food safety recall can a returned item be replaced with an equivalent. In all other cases, the return is to be replaced with an identical item, and never cash.
Also, if a prescription for an infant formula is changed, the “old” formula should be returned to the WIC office, not the store.
If you have any questions, please email them to email@example.com or call WIC at 800-649-4357.
Some WIC grocers have asked about shoppers using multiple WIC cards. While we do want our retailers to help us identify any suspicious activity that may be a threat to program integrity, there are some cases where a person may legitimately be using more than one Vermont WIC card.
- Federal rules allow WIC participants to appoint “proxies” – trusted friends or family, spouses/partners, to do their shopping for them. This may be necessary due to transportation, child care, illness or other issues. If the person using the WIC card has possession of the card and the valid PIN, the retailer should conduct the transaction. No other identification can be required.
- Foster children each have their own WIC card; foster parents with multiple foster children will therefore be using multiple cards. Again, possession of the card and a valid PIN is all that is necessary for those card-holders.
- Grandparents or other adults with custody of eligible infants/children may be using WIC cards. While the card user may not “look” WIC-eligible, if they have possession of a card and valid PIN, the card should be accepted.
Keeping these examples in mind, if something still just doesn’t “feel right,” please either phone or email the WIC Central Office at 800-649-4357 or firstname.lastname@example.org with information on the time and amount(s) of transaction(s). We can investigate and make sure the card use is legitimate.
The Vermont WIC Minimum Inventory requirements for grocers include stocking bottles of 48-ounce, shelf-stable juice.
- All Chain stores and Large Independents (gross annual rev >$7 million) are required to stock at least TWO varieties (flavors) and a total of at least TWELVE bottles of WIC-approved juices in 48 ounce bottles.
- Small stores and COOPs are required to stock at least ONE variety and a total of at least SIX bottles of WIC-approved juice in 48 ounce bottles.
This is the only size that pregnant and post-partum women are eligible for in our program, so having these on the shelf is very important for them. If you are a small store, please make sure your distributor makes this available to you, and if you are with a chain corporate office, please make sure all your stores in Vermont have these juices on their planogram.
WIC approved juices at this time (March 2016) are:
- Any flavor of the brands Juicy Juice, Northland, and Apple & Eve
- Shurfine brand, these flavors only: Apple; Grape; Vegetable
The current Approved Products List can always be accessed at: http://healthvermont.gov/wic/documents/approved_products_list_vendors.pdf
Vermont WIC is now in our largest and penultimate district rollout – Burlington. Over 500 of the 2000 eWIC cards to be mailed to families are on their way, and retailers are having their final certification visits with WIC staff. Starting April 1, rollout will move to the final district office, Middlebury. When those families use their cards starting May 1, the entire state will be rolled out, and home delivery will be no more for Vermont WIC families.
Our retail network now includes almost 150 grocers; 13 stores have been added to the original fruit and veggie card network, and a few stores decided not to continue withe eWIC.
Nineteen (19) stores are using eWIC only stand-beside devices and the remainder use WIC-integrated point of sale systems. We are hopeful that by 2017 several of the stand-beside stores will be able to transition to integrated POS system, making transactions easier for WIC participants and cashiers.
A reminder of your WIC contacts for ongoing questions that come up:
- WIC Central Office (which foods are WIC-able, and adding new foods) can be reached by email at email@example.com and by phone at 800-649-4357
- WIC Participant Customer Service (for questions about their eligible foods and card problems) at 855-769-8890
- WIC Retail Help Desk for stores using our stand-beside devices (for any equipment problems or questions about use) is 855-769-8857.
If you have suggestions for the program, problems to report, or don’t know where to pose your question, please email the WIC central office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all of you for your diligent work helping to roll out eWIC in Vermont.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 email@example.com.
Recently a WIC shopper tried to purchase a box of clementines, but the grocer POS rejected them. Turns 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.