Changing Practices Through the Pandemic
Because of social distancing requirements in place during the pandemic, the WIC office where Uddin works has changed its practices in several important ways. Staff used to meet with clients face to face. Now they do the intake, counseling, and nutritional education via phone, email, Zoom, Facetime, or WhatsApp.
Once that process is complete, Uddin and her staff mail WIC vouchers to clients, who can then use them to buy formula and healthy foods and drinks like whole grain bread and milk. But the vouchers can take up to 10 days sometimes to reach families via the mail, so if families are in more urgent situations—running low on formula for instance—then St. Joseph’s staff will meet them outside using appropriate protective measures to keep participants and staff safe.
As one participant said, “I don’t have to be scared that I have to go to the office with my children, or myself. Everything is from home. I feel safer that I can do everything from my phone.”
“E-Prescriptions” for Community Resources
When it comes to conducting some services virtually, the St. Joseph’s WIC office was somewhat ahead of the game when the pandemic struck. They started administering some services virtually in 2019, via a digital app called NowPow. It “e-prescribes” WIC participants resources, including nutrition education and referrals for other agencies, just like a doctor would prescribe a medication.
The NowPow tool provides continuously vetted community resources in a client’s preferred language and fosters a heightened level of accountability among partners. Particularly when using the tracked referral capability, WIC staff can communicate securely with partners, confirm clients received a service, and monitor how long it takes from initial referral to completion. While WIC participants used to come into the WIC office to get community resource referrals, now, because of NowPow, a lot of the referral program aspects can be done from the safety of their own homes.