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News >  Spokane

WIC foods still in stock at Spokane grocers as unemployment claims mount

UPDATED: Fri., March 27, 2020

Rosauers customers found the shelves empty of toilet paper during senior and at-risk shopping at the grocery store on 29th Avenue in Spokane last week. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Rosauers customers found the shelves empty of toilet paper during senior and at-risk shopping at the grocery store on 29th Avenue in Spokane last week. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane has yet to see shortages in grocery items covered under a program for low-income pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers that have plagued other parts of the country during the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s more prevalent on the West Side,” said Teresa Kafentzis, manager of the Woman, Infants and Children (WIC) program at the Spokane Regional Health District. “Early last week in Spokane, we had some shortages, but we have not been getting calls this week.”

The Health District serves about 8,700 qualifying participants in the region, Kafentzis said, who receive vouchers for specific items in local grocery stores. Those vouchers only work on specific brands and sizes of goods, including cereal, milk, peanut butter, eggs, fruit juice and baby formula.

A widely shared tweet from a progressive group in Maine earlier this month encouraged bulk shoppers at grocery stores to look for a tag indicating products were WIC-eligible and to leave those items for the mothers and families who can’t get other types of goods.

Kafentzis said the health district also is encouraging its recipients of WIC benefits to shop normally to prevent shortages of eligible items, specifically baby formula.

“We’re telling people, if you don’t need 10 cans right now, don’t buy 10 cans,” she said.

Local officials are urging all residents to practice normal shopping behavior to ensure stores remain well-stocked, as shortages of toilet paper and cleaning supplies persist on shelves.

The health district is also accepting new applications for WIC benefits as unemployment claims begin to mount.

To be eligible, a household must make less than 185% of the federal poverty guidelines. In Washington state, that means a household of four must have an annual income of $47,638, with a lower threshold for smaller families and a higher threshold for bigger families.

New applications are being accepted by phone, Kafentzis said, at (509) 324-1620.

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