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Elahe Izadi discovered that while the new Aldi grocery store on 17th and I streets NE does take EBT cards, it doesn’t accept WIC—-the subsidy program that helps poor mothers buy staple foods like eggs, milk, vegetables, and formula. Izadi reports the company’s explanation:

“We have explored ways for the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program to work within our operational structure,” Spokeswoman Amy Nadler emailed this statement to DCentric. “However, since the majority of our grocery products are under our own ALDI exclusive brands and are not national brands, unfortunately, we simply don’t qualify within the program’s current guidelines.  Therefore, we cannot accept WIC.”

It seems a bit more complicated than that, however.

The WIC website explains how nutritionally adequate foods get selected on a state-by-state basis:

State agencies make such decisions based on participant acceptance, product distribution within a State, cost, and administrative feasibility. Because State agencies are required to identify WIC-eligible foods, which vary from State to State, there is no consolidated list available. Due to the large number of locally and regionally available foods, including store brands and generics, and the frequent changes in formulation of foods by manufacturers, it is administratively difficult to maintain a national list of all possible WIC-eligible foods.

And going by some state WIC brochures, lots of private-label store brands qualify, including Stop & Shop (sister company to Giant), Publix, and Best Yet.

In D.C., “any brand or size” of plain, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables is WIC eligible. And in several states, store brands and the cheapest versions of foods are preferred by agencies. It’s odd that Aldi would use the store brand defense as a reason why they don’t qualify. More likely, is that the regulatory hoops companies have to jump through—-things like standardizing sizes and meeting minimum inventory requirements—-would make it too pricey of an endeavor.

At any rate, as Izadi pointed out, mothers looking to use their WIC benefits will just have to head across the street to Safeway. Or they could visit any of the other WIC-eligible shops in the D.C. metro area: Giant Food, Harris Teeter, People’s Market, Bestway Supermarket, Bolling Air Force Base Commissary, Tiger Market, Capital Super Market, CVS Pharmacy, Shoppers Food, Warehouse, Suburban Medical Equipment & Supplies.

Photo by Laura Mary via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License