BILLINGS — Beginning on June 1, the fruits and vegetables cash value benefit for the Women, Infant, and Children supplemental nutrition assistance program (WIC) will be increasing.
The plan was originally $9 per month for children under age five, and $11 a month for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. The increase will put the benefit to $35 a month per eligible person.
“These extra benefits are tremendous. We’re calling it our summer of fruits and veggies,” says Kate Monger, a WIC dietician.
To be eligible, you must be pregnant or breastfeeding, or be the custodial parent (male or female) of a child or infant under the age of five and meet a certain income criteria.
The money is coming from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which each state could opt in. However, the money almost didn’t come at all.
“We learned just last month that the paperwork for applying for the enhanced benefits had not been completed, and it needed to get in or the extra money wouldn’t be available,” says state Sen. Mary McNally, a Billings Democrat.
McNally says that Montana was the last state to turn in the paperwork, and an emergency meeting had to be held to determine whether the money would be accepted.
“We serve families within 185% of the federal poverty line, and we know there's families out there who could receive the benefits but aren’t,” says Monger.
Monger encourages anyone who would like to know if they meet the income requirements to visit the WIC website, or call the office at 406-247-3370.
“We really see this as a way to improve the dietary quality of WIC participants,” says Monger.
This increase will end on Labor Day.