JUNE 18 , 2021 — Even in the best of times, it can be challenging for Alaskans to buy fruits and vegetables to feed their families. The cost may be too high, especially in rural Alaska communities. This year, the pandemic made buying healthy food even harder for many families who lost jobs or faced reduced work hours.
This summer, Alaska’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is offering and expanding many programs to make it easier to buy fruits and vegetables. WIC serves pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as new mothers, dads, grandparents, foster parents, and working families with babies and children up to age 5. Their programs provide nutrition and breastfeeding education, referrals to needed services, and benefits to buy nutritious foods.
WIC families can eat more fruits and vegetables this summer
Alaska families enrolled in WIC can eat more fruits and vegetables thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, also called the federal COVID-19 stimulus package. Benefits will be increasing for each mother and child enrolled in WIC between June through September to buy fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables at over 160 participating stores across the state.
“We’re excited for the increase in funds for fruits and vegetables because they contain so many vitamins, nutrients and fiber,” said Jennifer Johnson, a registered dietitian and Alaska WIC Nutrition Coordinator. “Also, the fruits and vegetables don’t need to be fresh. Frozen and canned are just as healthy.”
The Alaska WIC program has been working hard this past year helping parents who are having a difficult time providing healthy food for their families. Enrolling has never been easier. Some application requirements have been waived. Families no longer need to come into the WIC office in person to apply. Applying and enrolling can now be done over the phone. No matter where you live in Alaska, WIC can come to you. Even in areas with low access to grocery stores, WIC participants can go online or place an order over the phone and have foods mailed directly to them.
“A personal recommendation from a friend or provider to use WIC services can really go a long way,” said Taryn Bliss, registered dietitian and the Alaska WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator. “When you participate in WIC or tell others about WIC services, you’re showing the need for healthy foods and resources for your neighbor and yourself and showing how much Alaskans value these services for their community.”
Check out the prescreening tool today to see if you qualify for WIC services. You can call the WIC clinic nearest you to apply. To find a nearby location, enter your zip code on the WIC sign-up page. Note that the Department of Health and Social Services website is unavailable at this time. Department staff are working to get the website back online. In the meantime, WIC is best reached by telephone at (907) 465-3100.
Alaska families can find help through additional food programs
WIC Farmers Market Program
In some Alaska communities this summer, each WIC participant may be able to receive an additional benefit to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs from local Alaska farmers. They can use these funds at certain farmers markets with participating farmers who are approved for this program. See which markets and farmers are participating here. The WIC Farmers Market Program operates in Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley, Fairbanks, North Pole, Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Kasilof, Homer, Haines, Juneau, Sitka and Petersburg.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Alaska SNAP program provides food assistance to eligible Alaska residents. SNAP benefits can be used to buy food from eligible stores statewide and participating farmers markets. The online application can be downloaded here, is available at public assistance offices, and can be mailed to you if requested. An electronic application is not currently available. You can email (email@example.com) your application or mail, fax, or drop it off at any public assistance office when completed. Individuals who need assistance with their application or have questions can call the Division of Public Assistance’s Virtual Contact Center at 1-800-478-7778.
SNAP COVID-19 Emergency Allotments
Through emergency allotments, SNAP households will receive the maximum allowable benefit for their household size regardless of the income being counted. Individuals do not need to apply for emergency allotments. They will automatically be made available on recipient cards.
Expanded options at local stores
The Food Bank of Alaska and the Municipality of Anchorage are sponsoring SNAP produce vouchers at Carrs–Safeway stores. SNAP recipients shopping at Carrs–Safeway stores in Anchorage, Eagle River and Girdwood who spend $10 on fresh produce will receive vouchers at the bottom of their receipt for another $10 of produce to use on their next shopping trip. These vouchers don’t expire until July 31, 2021.
Dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221 for a variety of resources and support including food and shelter, child care, and more. Sometimes it can be easier to ask questions over the phone than looking online. Alaskans who need food will find food banks and pantries across the state. Click here to find a pantry that’s open today.
Play Every Day is a campaign with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services to help Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight and encourage families to be physically active and choose healthy drinks. For more information, visit www.playeveryday.alaska.gov.