DHHR 'monitors' Facebook yard sales of WIC formula

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - A representative with the Department of Human and Health Resources says state health officials monitor Facebook yard sale and other social media sale sites, where people have been known to sell baby formula previously acquired using government benefits.

5 News has received several complaints from Facebook users who have seen baby formula, purchased through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, for sale online.

"It drives me crazy," said Carol Kirby, a Clarksburg resident who used to rely on WIC formula to feed her children. "The girls I've seen do it are girls that I've known with my children. I've seen them use their WIC and buy it, and if they don't need it anymore, they put it on [Facebook] and sell it and make money out of it."

WIC is a supplemental nutrition program, which provides federal grants to states supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition for low-income pregnant and breast-feeding women.

According to West Virginia WIC, the program provides services to three quarters of the state's infants and one quarter of all children between one and four-years-old.

In a statement to 5 News, Denise Ferris, Ph.D., who oversees the WIC program for the state, said the WIC Program Integrity Coordinator "receives reports from WIC staff and the general public. All Facebook posts received are investigated by the Program Integrity Coordinator."

The DHHR does not comment on active or open investigations, but did note that the sale, purchase, or trade of any items acquired using WIC benefits is in violation of WIC policy. You can see the rest of the statement below:

"It is a violation of WIC policy and procedures for a WIC participant, parent/guardian or caretaker to buy, sell, trade or give away benefits purchased using WIC benefits. This is based on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) directive that these allegations of program abuse are to be investigated thoroughly. Selling WIC benefits of less than $100 in value may result in program disqualification for three months and if more than $100 in value, the sanction period may be 12 months. The WIC participant does have the right to a Fair Hearing if they believe that they are wrongly accused, and they also have the opportunity to make restitution for what was offered for sale to avoid loss of program benefits. This may be either monetary or by returning what was offered for sale to the local WIC clinic.

All WIC participants are advised of this policy at every certification appointment in the WIC Participant Agreement, which contains the Participant Rights and Responsibilities. This is also explained in detail verbally at each certification appointment. All WIC clinics display a minimum of two posters, one state and one federal, advising participants that the sale, trade, purchase or giving away of WIC benefits is prohibited. WIC also discourages parents from purchasing infant formula from unknown and potentially unsafe sources since the formula may have been mishandled or tampered with."