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WIC Provides Food and Nutrition Assistance
By Lois Thomson

WIC – the Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – is a federal assistance program that provides supplemental food and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and post-partum women, infants, and children up to the age of 5.

One of the services provided by the program is a focus on nutrition education, and its connection to good health. According to Lisa Matt of WIC, nutritional risks are a concern because they can have a negative impact on overall health if they are not addressed. Some of the risks are health problems, medical conditions, or poor dietary intake – ones that may be preventable or controllable through lifestyle change.

The risks are determined through a collection of medical information, anthropometric measurements, hemoglobin levels, and a nutrition interview. Once they have been established, the risk criteria can guide a WIC nutritionist to work with a participant on areas that need improvement; the results can help them with healthy birth outcomes, maintaining healthy weights, preventing iron deficiency anemia, and other concerns that are identified. 

Other services and benefits of the program include supplemental food packages and farmers' market nutrition program vouchers. The vouchers provide checks to WIC participants to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at their local farmers' markets. Some participants would not be able to eat a balanced diet or meet their dietary needs without the help of the WIC food packages.

A number of area stores are authorized to accept WIC coupons, including Kuhn's Markets, Giant Eagle, and Shop 'n Save stores, as well as local markets. The Pennsylvania Food List and Shopping Guide found on the WIC website provides a list of items that can be purchased with the coupons, including dairy and soy products, juice, cereals, breads, and fruits and vegetables, among others.

Additional services provided by the program are referrals for other services or doctors, and breastfeeding support. Fully breastfeeding mothers and infants receive the most WIC foods.

To be eligible for the program, a person must qualify in three ways: (1) Financially – participants are eligible if they have an income of 185 percent of the poverty guidelines or lower. People who receive medical assistance, SNAP benefits, or TANF are adjunctively eligible to participate in the program; (2) Residentially – applicants must live in Pennsylvania to receive WIC benefits in Pennsylvania; and (3) Medically – applicants must meet medical or nutrition risk criteria as determined by the USDA.

There is no cost to participate in the WIC program, and in Allegheny County, applicants can apply for benefits by calling to schedule an appointment; filling out an application online; or having a doctor complete and submit the application. Someone from a WIC clinic will then call to schedule an appointment.

WIC participants are generally issued benefits, which are loaded onto an EBT card, for three months at a time. Benefits are available to spend on a monthly basis, and do not carry over to the next month. 

The bottom line is that WIC helps the community by building strong, healthy families.

For more information, call (412) 350-5801 or visit www.pawic.com.



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