Today in Community Nutrition Class we had an engaging, eye opening lesson about WIC, how the process works for a family in need, and what it’s like to be a Dietitian working within the Department of Health.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, WIC stands for the Women, Infant & Children Food Assistance Program, interestingly under the control of the USDA (think: commodity foods).
According to the website www.FloridaWIC.org :
WIC is a federally funded nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children that provides the following at no cost: healthy foods, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support, and referrals for health care. Who is eligible? Pregnant and breastfeeding women, women who have recently been pregnant, infants, and children under the age of 5 years who have a low or moderate income, are at nutrition risk, and who live in Florida.
My awesome professor provided us with all of the paper handouts, brochures and other materials a WIC client might receive upon entering the noisy, crowded waiting room at a WIC office (imagine the DMV, but if everyone had children under the age of 5!). We also watched a horribly stressful video intended to be watched in that terrible waiting room about how to buy foods using WIC checks. I was overwhelmed. The amount of detailed nutrition information, rules, and exceptions to the rules seems excessive.
Take a look at this pamphlet describing the rules of what to and what not to buy as a person using WIC checks in the state of Florida…
Can you imagine what its like to be a low income, pregnant woman with or with out young children trying to take in all of this information? Did you know that the WIC nutritionist gets only about 15 minutes per month with each client to make required health assessments and give education?
So no matter your political opinion on government assistance programs, keep in mind that those women you see in front of you holding up the line at the grocery store – the ones with all the paperwork getting frustrated with the teenage cashier - are either pregnant or trying to raise young children on a limited income. They have taken part in a long, difficult process of applying for assistance, sat in waiting rooms for hours just to get a few minutes with an RD, and are only allowed to buy certain brands of certain foods in restricted amounts. Next time you run into Publix for some Sushi or a Sub Sandwich, have a little perspective, and consider the fact that the lady in the next isle with the crying baby is working very hard to feed her family.
Have you or anyone you know ever used Food Assistance Programs? Share your insight. And, as usual, if you have any questions, please leave a comment or email me at SummerVBlankenship@gmail.com.