High Food Prices Highlight Need for County WIC program
June 2, 2008
With the rising cost of food and other necessities, more and more families like Tamika Huey and her children are relying on the Contra Costa Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program.
The free program helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children eat well and stay healthy by providing assistance with buying food and nutrition and health education.
"WIC has helped us so much. They provide us with milk, cereal, eggs and juice, and they gave me healthy cooking tips. They even helped me quit smoking," said Huey, who has four children and works as a sales associate.
WIC has seen a 9 percent client increase in the last year because of high food costs and growing unemployment, said Beverly Clark, WIC Director for Contra Costa Health Services. WIC serves about 20,500 clients a month. While the number of clients has increased, the number of staff hasn't so the program's 50 employees, some of whom are part time, have been working extra hard, Clark said.
To qualify for the program, a family of four must have an annual gross income of under $38,203.
Most clients have much less so WIC services are absolutely critical for some families, Clark said.
"I've had some clients tell me that they wouldn't have anything to eat on some days if it weren't for WIC. Hungry children coming with their moms to WIC appointments often ask their moms for something to eat while waiting and the moms tell them that they will go to the store as soon as they get their food checks. We really are a safety net," Clark said.
Many people aren't aware of WIC or don't understand what the program does. WIC, in particular, supports pregnant or breastfeeding women and mothers of children under 5 years old. WIC clients get checks for specific healthy food items, such as eggs, milk, cheese, juice, cereal, beans, peanut butter, fruits and vegetables.
"WIC is about more than just providing food to these families in need but also teaching them about healthy eating habits to help improve their health overall," Clark said.
To apply for WIC, call 1-800-414-4WIC(4942). For more information, visit www.cchealth.org/services/wic/
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