WIC Program To Go Electronic

A program helping low-income families is going high-tech. Starting next year, the WIC program in the East Texas area will operate through electronic cards, instead of printed vouchers. WIC says the change will help them operate more smoothly.

The number of people participating in the program has doubled in the past five years. "I think that it's an amazing program and it's very helpful to the people of society that just really can't afford it. It helps so much," said WIC participant Michelle Bristow. The 25-year-old mother of two is one of the 15,000 participants in East Texas.

The program provides baby formula, milk, orange juice and a number of other products to low-income women and children. While the program has doubled in recent years, Northeast Texas Public Health District Director Nick Sciarrini says that's a good thing. "If Texas doesn't use some of the funds, they'll go to Arkansas or Mississippi or to Indiana or someplace else," said Sciarrini.

He says there are a number of reasons for the growth. "Our population of uninsured is growing. It's growing because our working people who are having trouble having ends meet, those numbers are growing," said Sciarrini.

"Just saving that $200 a month on formula is very helpful. It's something I don't have to worry about, how are my kids going to eat," said Bristow. Michelle says the security the program provides is something she's grateful for.

As far as the number of illegal immigrants taking part in WIC, the Health District says there is no way of knowing. They can't discriminate against someone who does not have legal documents. The budget for the WIC program makes up 25 percent of the Health District budget.

Oralia Ortega reporting, ortega@kltv.com