COLUMBUS - The Kansas Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is stepping up it's technological game in 2018, with the eWIC initiative.

"eWIC" is the WIC-specific term for the EBT cards the program is converting to, replacing the paper checks that have been previously used. The cards are similar to consumer credit/debit cards but are exclusively used for purchasing WIC-approved items. Cherokee County Health Department Administrator/Health Officer Betha Elliott said the change will bring a number of benefits to participants in the program.

"You used to have to get all your stuff at one time but with the EBT cards you could just pick up one gallon of milk now and get another next week or so," Elliott said.

Elliott mentioned the upcoming change to the program at the December department head meeting with the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners. The state-wide initiative will begin officially rolling out next year, with the first group (Northeast) rolling out on Jan. 10. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has divided the state into six sections, each with a roll-out period of three months. Southeast is the second section to roll-out the program, beginning Feb. 7, and spanning through May 7. Each region’s roll-out takes place over three months, as each clinic sees clients at appointments to receive checks. In other words, all participants will not be issued cards at the beginning of roll out.

To help monitor this massive new upheaval of the program, Shawnee County launched a pilot run of eWIC on Sept. 14, 2017. This has allowed KDHE to catch any unforeseen bugs, and make necessary adjustments to help prepare for the first roll-out early next month.