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SANTA FE, NM – Today, the New Mexico Department of Health's (NMDOH) Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program launches a pilot project at two Las Cruces grocery stores to test a new way for participants to use WIC benefits to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

Field tested at Lowe's Fiesta Foods (2810 N. Main) and Lowe's Grocery (1410 E. Missouri Avenue) the project changes the point of sale system. With the change, cashiers can tell a customer the remaining balance on their WIC card after their purchase is totaled. Fruits and vegetables are conveniently placed at the cash registers to allow WIC participants an opportunity to use all of the funds available to them before the conclusion of the sale.

"This subtle change can make a big difference for WIC participants," said New Mexico WIC and Farmers Market Director, Sarah Flores-Sievers. "Having healthy foods within arm's reach at the checkout counter makes it much easier participants to use any amount of remaining funds on their benefits card no matter how small, without increasing wait times for everyone in line."

The project was developed by New Mexico State University's College of Business Consumer Behavior Lab, in cooperation with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, New Mexico WIC, and the Lowe's Market chain.

The USDA reports approximately 20 percent of the funds allocated nationwide for the special supplemental nutrition program for WIC participants for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables go unused each year. The USDA is looking at ways to reduce the amount of unused benefits without cutting WIC participants' funding.

If successful, the new point of sale system piloted in Las Cruces will be implemented statewide.

The WIC Program in New Mexico serves more than 51,000 mothers and children each month and provides supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

For more information about New Mexico's WIC program as well as requirements and registration information at http://www.NMWIC.org.

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Editor's Note

The Grant County Beat continues to bring you new columnists. New this past week are the Christian Corner, for those who are already Christians or are exploring the beliefs.

The second is a business-centered column—Your Business Connection by the New Mexico Business Coalition. The group works to make policy in the state of New Mexico better for all businesses, large and small.

The Beat has a new column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues. The first one posted is on Winterizing your houseplants and patio plants.

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