More than ever before childcare agencies and families of children are being encouraged to emphasize healthy lifestyles with particular notice being given to proper nutrition and physical fitness.
Pediatricians encourage expectant mothers to breastfeed their babies because they know this gives them the best start with the right balance of nutrients and immunity until they can develop it on their own with the help of timely immunizations.
Parents can see the cause and effect of this logic as we now know the relationship risk factors (poor nutrition, lack of physical exercise, use of tobacco and drugs) play on chronic disease and other illnesses.
They are helped in these endeavors by organizations that offer activities and materials that provide the message in fun, interesting ways.
One of these is the WIC program that provides activity pages on their web site: http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Sharing_Center/preschool.html.
WIC stands for "Women Infants and Children Food/Nutrition Program" and is a Supplemental Nutrition Program created to improve nutritional deficiencies that can affect the growth and development in certain population groups (infants, young children, pregnant and lactating women).
Georgia’s WIC program is the nation’s seventh largest program and provides benefits to 275,232 participants each month.
WIC participants receive food vouches to redeem for specific foods each month.
These are foods designed to supplement their diets - foods that are high in one or more of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.
Data shows that these are nutrients frequently lacking in the diets of the program’s target population. Different food packages are provided for different categories of participants.
In addition to supplemental nutritious foods, eligible clients are provided with nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics, screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services and breastfeeding support and counseling.
Research has shown that there is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life.
Breastfeeding provides many health, nutritional, economical and emotional benefits to mother and baby; therefore, WIC has historically promoted breastfeeding to all pregnant women as the optimal infant feeding choice, unless medically contraindicated.
WIC foods include iron-fortified infant formula (for mothers who elect not to breastfeed) and infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit and/or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried beans or peas, tuna fish and carrots. Special infant formulas and certain medical foods may be provided when prescribed by a physician or health professional for a specified medical condition.
WIC is a short-term program with participants graduating at the end of one or more certification periods.
A certification period is the length of time a WIC participant is eligible to receive benefits. Depending on whether the individual is pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant, or a child, an eligible individual usually receives WIC benefits from 6 months to a year, at which time she/he must reapply.
To be eligible for the WIC Program, applicants must meet the following four eligibility requirements:
Categorical - The WIC Program is designed to serve certain categories of women, infants, and children. Therefore, the following individuals are considered categorically eligible for WIC:
- Pregnant women (through pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after birth or after pregnancy ends).
- Breastfeeding women (up to infant’s 1st birthday)
- Non-breastfeeding postpartum women (up to 6 months after the birth of an infant or after pregnancy ends)
- Infants (up to 1st birthday). WIC serves 45 percent of all infants born in the United States.
- Children up to their 5th birthday.
Residential - Georgia applicants must live in this state and are required to live in a local service area in order to apply at a WIC clinic that serves that area. They are not required to live in the State (or local service area) for a certain amount of time in order to meet a residency requirement.
Income - To be eligible on the basis of income, an applicants’ gross income (before taxes are withheld) must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines.
Some individuals are determined to be income-eligible for WIC because of certain other programs that they are eligible for. This is known as Automatic Income Eligibility and includes individuals who are:
- eligible to receive Food Stamps, Medicaid, for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, formerly known as AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependent Children),
- in a family in which certain members are eligible to receive Medicaid or TANF; or
- eligible to participate in certain other State-administered programs
Nutrition Risk - This means that an individual has medical-based or dietary-based conditions. Examples of medical-based conditions include anemia (low blood levels), underweight, or history of poor pregnancy outcome. One example of a dietary-based condition would be a poor diet. To be eligible, an applicant must have at least one of the medical or dietary conditions on the State’s list of WIC nutrition risk criteria.
Applicants must be seen by a health professional (physician, nurse, or nutritionist) who will determine whether the individual is at nutrition risk. In many cases, this is done in the WIC clinic at no cost to the applicant but it may also be obtained from another health professional such as the applicant’s physician.
For information about WIC clinics in your area or to schedule an appointment, contact your local health department.
To determine initial eligibility and for each re-certification, applicants must show proof from each of the following three categories listed below: (bring any one of the items listed under the three categories).
Identification: Confirmation of birth, driver's license, work or school ID, birth certificate or immunization record, social security card or military ID.
Address: Medicaid card, water bill, cable TV bill, rent receipt with name and address, no p.o. box numbers accepted, phone bill, electric or gas bill.
Family income: Current medicaid card, food stamp documentation, paycheck stub, current tax return form, letter from employer, child support.
Information for this article was obtained from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Public Information web site.