Government assistance often comes with a stigma, though the programs are meant to help those most in need. WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, is one such program that is meant to provide supplemental nutrition for a specific at-risk population.
“WIC was implemented in 1974 as a response to growing concerns over poor health outcomes among many low-income pregnant women, mothers, infants, and children under 5,” said Yadkin County WIC Supervisor Laken Royall. “In the US, WIC is the third largest food and nutrition assistance program, serving over 52 percent of all infants born.”
The program is not an entitlement program which Congress sets aside funds for every eligible individual, but rather a federal grant program for which a specified amount of funds are designated each year.
Pregnant women, postpartum women with infants from birth to 11 months and children ages 1 to 5 who fall into a certain income level are eligible for WIC.
“To be considered income eligible for WIC, a household must be at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level,” Royal said. “The current income guidelines for a family of four, before taxes, is $46,435 yearly or $3,870 monthly.”
While clients who already participate in Medicaid, food stamps and Work First are automatically eligible, many others who fall within the income guidelines may be eligible for this supplemental program, which can help families in making ends meet, Royall said.
“Reflective of the income guidelines, many WIC clients are working and simply struggling to bridge-the-gap after paying bills and childcare costs,” she said.
Supplemental foods offered through WIC include milk, bread, eggs, cheese, yogurt, cereal, fruits, vegetables, infant foods, infant formula and juice. Yadkin County recently moved to an eWIC card, which can be used just like a debit card at participating stores.
“The average WIC food benefit package totals approximately $80 per participant each month for women and children. For infants that receive formula, the package total is approximately $175 per month, which is roughly half of the required need for the first year,” Royall said.
Each North Carolina county has a local WIC office which provides free nutritional education as well as breastfeeding education and support.
“To continue the goal of improving the health of eligible clients, breastfeeding is a core component of WIC. All WIC staff have been trained to provide breastfeeding education and support to better assist participants. Breastfeeding peer counselors are also available to provide one-on-one support to breastfeeding clients to assist them with overcoming barriers to breastfeeding,” said Royall.
Clients also have access to needed breastfeeding supplies such as hospital-grade breast pumps.
Royall said they often receive feedback from clients on how this supplemental food has helped their family. The breastfeeding support is especially helpful for new mothers.
“Numerous studies over past 40-plus years have been done to evaluate the effectiveness of WIC,” Royall said. “The top health outcomes for WIC participants are reduced premature births, reduced low and very low birth-weight babies, reduced fetal and infant deaths, reduced incidence of low-iron anemia, increased access to prenatal care earlier in pregnancy, increased pregnant women’s consumption of key nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium, and vitamins A and C, increased immunization rates, improved diet quality, and increased access to regular health care.”
To learn more about the WIC program, contact Laken Royall, WIC supervisor with Yadkin County WIC, at 336-849-7910. The program operates within the Yadkin County Human Services Agency at 217 E. Willow St. in Yadkinville.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-518-3049 on on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.