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New Technology Enables Alaskans to Easily Check Food Assistance Eligibility


Anchorage – This week, the Municipality of Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the State of Alaska partnered with local nonprofit Code for Anchorage and software development team mRelief to incorporate the Alaska WIC program into a user-friendly text-based eligibility screener. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program is a federal supplemental nutrition program for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and children up to the age of five. Building on their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) screener launched last month, this innovative tool will enable new and expecting parents to determine if they may qualify for WIC with a few simple text messages. 

“We saw the good work mRelief and Code for Anchorage did to make SNAP screeners available by text, and thought WIC could be a good fit. This supplemental nutrition program is essential to the health of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their children, and we’re thrilled these services will be easier to access,” said Anchorage DHHS Director Melinda Freemon.

In Alaska one in five children is food insecure. Three out of four Alaskan WIC participants are in families with income below the federal poverty level, with an average annual income of $17,372. Currently, 23,055 Alaskans participate in the WIC program monthly. Approximately 33% of WIC clients reside within the Municipality of Anchorage and receive services at Anchorage DHHS.

“New and expecting parents who work 40 hours a week might not have the tools or the time to apply for food assistance,” said Code for Anchorage’s Brendan Babb. “Checking if you may qualify from your cell phone in under three minutes dramatically streamlines that process, with no computer, smartphone or data plan necessary.”

Studies show that WIC helps reduce premature births and infant deaths. Preterm births cost the U.S. over $26 billion a year. On average, the first year medical cost of a premature baby is $49,033, compared to $4,551 for a baby without complications. WIC makes good economic sense, and provides a critical source of nutrition many new mothers couldn’t otherwise afford.

mRelief Co-Founder Rose Afriyie stated, “Our all-woman software development team couldn’t be happier to help women, infants and children get the resources they need to be nourished and healthy at a time when they need it most.”

To find out if you qualify, text “child” to 907.312.2300.

For more information, please contact Amory Lelake at 907.343.4619.


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