Regional public healthcare program Community Medical Centers announced on Friday that families receiving assistance from Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, will have a temporary increase in their monthly produce benefit to $35 per month per participant. The benefit is thanks to funds acquired through the federal American Rescue Plan, and the temporary increase will last from June through September.

“Children’s growing bodies require good nutrition, and fruits and vegetables play a critical role in keeping kids healthy,” said Andrea Weiss, Program Manager for CMC’s WIC services. “This is an incredible opportunity in public health to increase access to fruits and vegetables for our young families in San Joaquin County.”

The current WIC benefits for fruits and vegetables are $9 a month for children 1- to 5-years-old and $11 a month for women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding. With the temporary increase, this amount is more than doubled.

“As an example, let’s take a family of a mom, a 4-year-old and a newborn. The mom would be eligible to receive $11 a month, but that figure would go up to $35 a month from June through September. Her two kids’ benefit would increase from $9 a month to $35 a month. So, the total $29 a month benefit for the family would jump to $105 a month over the four-month period,” said Roger Phillips, CMC Communications Manager, in an email to the Tracy Press.

CMC also announced that WIC families can combine their fruits and vegetables benefits with the WIC Farmer’s Market Nutrition program. These additional checks are distributed annually to families between May and November and can be used at places like the Tracy Farmer’s Market to buy fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from participating farmers, farmer’s markets or roadside stands.

Over 8,000 families participate in San Joaquin County’s WIC program according to numbers released by CMC. The new American Rescue Plan benefits will last from June 1 through Sept. 30 and are good for up to 30 days after the benefits are issued. As part of its outreach, CMC plans to cater its education efforts toward teaching families more about incorporating fruits and vegetables in their diets.

“Now, the bad part is it is only for four months. So, it's not a permanent increase in their fruit and vegetable benefits each month. But it gives us a good opportunity to see, like, if we give our families more fruits and vegetables, will they use that money?” said Weiss. “Hopefully, we'll be able to see some really good outcomes from this. So that it just kind of gives us more lobbying power with USDA to say our families will use it if they give us more fruits and vegetables each month. So, we're excited for the opportunity to see what will come of this temporary increase.”

For more information about San Joaquin County’s WIC program, families can visit cmcwic.org.

• Contact Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 209-835-3030.

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