National WIC Association

Meet 2023 Health Equity Champion: George!

July 21, 2023



Join us in celebrating George Rivera, a Health Equity Champion from Cohort 2, whose journey in the WIC program took a transformative turn during Pennsylvania's transition from the voucher system to the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system. This remarkable experience left a lasting impact on George and reaffirmed his commitment to making WIC more equitable and accessible for all.

As part of this monumental transition, George and his colleagues were tasked with visiting WIC-approved vendors across the state, ranging from mom-and-pop stores to large supermarket chains. Their mission? To scan the UPC product codes for each individual WIC product, including baby formula, cereals, milk, fruits, and vegetables. The scale of this undertaking meant that their efforts could span hours or even days, depending on the store's inventory. The scanned codes were then uploaded into the WIC PENN System, where they would be used to facilitate scripts for the participant cards.

This transition to the EBT system aimed to address the growing obsolescence of the voucher system while ensuring that WIC benefits were more accessible to participants. By replacing checks with cards, participants could conveniently visit any WIC clinic in the state, have their card loaded with WIC-approved products, and then purchase these items from WIC-designated stores. It was a significant step forward in streamlining the program and ensuring its relevance in an evolving technological landscape.

However, George and his colleagues encountered numerous challenges during their journey. As they ventured into different neighborhoods, they faced language barriers, cultural obstacles, and even areas with safety concerns. Yet, driven by their unwavering dedication to equity, they remained undeterred. The goal was clear: to make WIC more equitable for everyone, ensuring that no individual or community was left behind.

Embracing an equity lens was instrumental in achieving their mission. By understanding how different individuals are connected to the same goal, George and his colleagues gained a profound understanding of the importance of equitable access to WIC services. Their dedication to this principle fueled their efforts, propelling them forward amidst the complexities of the transition.

Through their diligent work and unwavering commitment, George and his colleagues successfully scanned the UPC product codes for the entire state, paving the way for the Pennsylvania WIC program's transition to the EBT system. This monumental change brought forth numerous benefits, including enhanced access to benefits for participants, improved program efficiency, and the program's ability to adapt to evolving technologies.

In reflection, George considers his experience in transitioning the Pennsylvania WIC program as both challenging and immensely rewarding. It served as a poignant reminder of the significance of applying an equity lens in WIC and the imperative to ensure that the program remains accessible to all individuals and communities. The transition to the EBT system marked a significant milestone in their journey towards achieving this goal, and George takes immense pride in being part of this transformative process.

As we celebrate George Rivera's remarkable contribution as a Health Equity Champion, let us draw inspiration from his story. May it ignite our collective commitment to championing health equity within the WIC program and beyond. Together, we can build a future where every individual, irrespective of their background or circumstances, has equitable access to the vital services they need to thrive.