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North Carolina saw the country's greatest increase in WIC participation during the pandemic

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North Carolina had the country’s greatest increase in participation in the Women, Infants, and Children program during the pandemic, according to a new reportby the Food Research & Action Center.

Participation in the program, also known as WIC, rose by 21% in North Carolina between February 2020 and February 2022.

And, the number of children enrolled in WIC increased by nearly 36%.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that increased food benefits and program flexibilities put in place during the pandemic have contributed to the increase in enrollment.

"North Carolina took advantage of federal flexibilities to streamline how families could access WIC during the pandemic," said Mary Anne Burghardt, Sstate WIC director. "Local WIC agencies have done great work in supporting families in their communities during challenging times."

Before the pandemic, WIC recipients were eligible for $11 per month if they were pregnant or postpartum (up to one year) and $9 per month afterward.

That amount increased to $35 per month with the passage of the American Rescue Plan in 2021.

As of this month, families are eligible for $44 while pregnant and $49 while postpartum. That amount then goes down to $25 per month.

The state DDHS says those levels should be in place through September 2023.

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