Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WIC -- The Women, Infants, and Children Program

WIC is a federal government program that is run by the individual states. Its rationale is that the population as a whole will be healthier if adequate nutrition is provided for children at the beginning of their lives. Food is also given to childbearing women: during pregnancy, in order to help them recover from childbirth, and for breastfeeding. WIC is well-known for providing vouchers for free food, but the program also involves some medical screening, growth measurements, breastfeeding support, and nutrition education. This program is based on family size and income.

Children five and under can be enrolled in the program. You need to bring your children in with you for most appointments, which will be at least every six months.

There are six WIC clinics in Salt Lake County. To apply, go online for locations, phone numbers, and additional information. Call to set up an ap-pointment and they will tell you what you need to bring.

As mentioned, this is a government program. You need to be willing to provide quite a bit of information, including income, IDs and proof of address, and sometimes wait quite a while in the waiting room.

Food vouchers can be redeemed at most local grocery stores for the specific food categories listed. A pamphlet is provided to itemize exactly which items and brands can be purchased.  Typical foods given are milk, whole grains in the form of cereal and bread, tortillas or brown rice; fruit, vegetables, eggs, beans, juice, and a little peanut butter. The high nutrient, healthy foods provided are intended to supplement to your diet.

Some WIC foods are for specialized groups. Infants may get formula; babies 6-12 months old also get pow-dered baby cereal and jarred baby food fruits and vegetables.

Utah WIC added incentives for exclusively breastfeeding families. The biggest one is almost triple the amount of jarred baby food once your infants turn 6 months old. They also received jarred pureed meats.

Your babies will be considered “exclusively breastfed” if you do not request any formula from the program, even if you decide to supplement with formula yourselves.

Breastfeeding moms are the only ones to get canned fish (tuna or salmon), and moms breastfeeding twins get half-again more food allotment.

Vouchers for breastfeeding mothers continue up to one year, but it ends then even if you continue to breastfeed your infants. Your children will then start to get typical WIC foods. However, one-year-olds get whole milk. Milk for all others is your choice of 2%, 1%, or skim.  Make sure you are getting a special package for twins. You could request items such as extra cheese if you are con-cerned about losing weight while breastfeeding, or maybe low-sodium items. You need a “prescription” for these, which can be taken to a doctor to be signed at an appointment for you or the babies.

Another benefit of being enrolled in WIC is that it may streamline and increase eligibility if you apply to other programs which are determined by income.

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