NORWICH – WIC, which stands for Women, Infants, and Children, is a federal supplemental food program that provides nutritious foods to pregnant, postpartum and breast feeding women and children up to age 5.
Currently, WIC's largest office in Chenango County operates out of Norwich in the Greater Opportunities office building located on 44 West Main Street in Norwich.
Prior to the pandemic, the WIC staff would see people in office or travel to townships like Greene, Bainbridge, New Berlin, and Sherburne to see clients. But according to WIC Director Katha Root, they've been limited to phone check-ins since March.
"We usually see people in person but as of March we stopped seeing people in person. That's really hard for us because we love seeing the kids, we like seeing the new babies, and we like interacting with the new families. When we get to see the families we get to see how the kids are doing as far as emotionally and if there are any problems we can spot that pretty quickly, so we miss all that," said Root.
For the first three months, WIC staff had to work from home. Then in June the program’s five full-time employees and two breast feeding peer counselors were able to return to the office. However, the staff are still restricted to phone visits only.
"We're still doing everything on the phone until the end of September. The USDA determines when people can come back to the office," said Root.
The program is funded mainly by the United States Department of Agriculture, which provides 97 percent of the funding. The other three percent coming from New York State.
Root said that working via phone calls has its advantages.
"Doing things over the phone has worked out really good for a lot of our families who can't get here, who don't have transportation, and who might work and have child care issues."
In 2018, WIC made the transition from paper checks to EBT cards. Root said this has helped a great deal since clients can't come in to pick up checks and they won't have to wait for them to be mailed.