Wednesday, April 25, 2007
WIC on the chopping block
Not too long ago, one of our producers suggested a story on the most utilized food program in the United States. The news: The Women, Infants and Children program was finally getting vouchers for fresh fruit and vegetables. It may not sound too enticing at first - it didn't to me -- but then I considered that we're battling an overweight and obesity epidemic in our children. So the government is just now offering low-income mothers and children assistance in purchasing fruit and vegetables? I asked the producer to check her facts.

WIC has been providing nutrition services for low-income women and children for over 30 years. For most of that time, malnutrition was a key problem - so the vouchers focused on milk, bread, cereal - foods that can sustain you. Now, the concern is overweight and obesity in children, so the Department of Agriculture decided to add vouchers for produce - a healthy diet addition -- that can be redeemed at local grocery stores.

This was great - a success story on battling overweight and obesity. But then the producer came back to me with more information. It turns out WIC is on the chopping block, facing a $145 million cut in President Bush's 2008 budget.

If this happens, some fear that the produce voucher proposal will disappear. For now, Congress is debating, one hopes keeping in mind what those dollar signs on the page mean in real life.

For more, watch American Morning on Thursday, 6-9 a.m. ET, and tune in to House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta weekend mornings at 8:30 a.m. ET?
Hi Karen,
I'd say the part that bothers me the most is that many who have WIC either don't use it, or they get the products and then never eat them.

It's a great idea for WIC to put produce on their vouchers, however, the average child wouldn't touch a pile of broccoli even if you volunteered to give them five bucks. My son? He goes into the fridge and snacks on baby carrots- but that's NOT the norm. He does it because that's what in there and he's eaten healthy his whole life; you will not find junk food or soda in my house.

Unfortunately people are creatures of habit and they don't want to change their diets most of all. The idea with WIC is great- but useless if the people who get it don't utilize it and get healthy.

Hopefully Congress will not only NOT cut the WIC funding, but will give them MORE money so that Registered Dieticians can be used more to help educate those that are receiving the services.
As a nursing student, I spent a share day at a local WIC program. This program is a wonderful asset to women and children in need but I was taken aback by the foods that people were getting vouchers for. Peanut butter, but only the kind with trans fat, whole milk (though it is discouraged), blocks of cheese. I was told that when the program was created, it was meant to fight iron deficiency anemia and malnutrition, which was the predominant problem in lower income families at the time. Now, obesity has become an epidemic and adding fruits and veggies to this program is a phenomenal idea to starting good eating habits in childhood that these kids can carry into adulthood (which means less people relying on the healthcare system for the treatment of preventable ailments). Bush cutting this vital program is apalling and prevents it from adjusting to the changing demographics of our country. It shows just how focused he is abroad and not on the citizens of the country he claims he is trying to protect.
An interesting article Dr. Gupta. I believe that the government’s priorities have a tendency to be off centered at times, considering the stated fact that the country's children as well as adults are becoming increasingly overweight and obese.

Allowing lower income families to purchase fruits and vegetables on the WIC program is an excellent incentive being that the fruits and vegetables at times have a tendency to be more expensive than a low quality piece of meat or poultry.

In addition, people truly need to be educated as to the importance of the basic food groups, not only as a means of successfully passing a "Health Course" but for a healthier and happier life.
To Whom This May Concern,
I am a DTR and I work for the WIC program. The foods that are on the vouchers are specific to the nutrients in them. Research is that WIC kids are more fit than the population that has never had the priveledged of participating in this fabulous program.
Sany Adams
I am thrilled with your cogent observations of the WIC Program and the importance of adequate funding to improve pregnancy outcomes for woman at risk and to sustain the health of their children. The addition of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables will allow the WIC Program to catch-up with the US Dietary Guidelines. That makes perfect "cents" as the WIC Program is a health program. Thanks so much for this quality presentation.
Years ago, I visited a WIC clinic near a local Air Force base and was surprised to learn how many of its clientele were families of enlisted men and women. I wonder if Pres. Bush realizes just how many families of armed forces personnel have income levels that qualify them for WIC benefits. These families' resources are already stretched to the limit while their loved ones are deployed and re-deployed overseas. It is unthinkable that he would do them the disservice of depriving them of a reliable source of nutrition while their breadwinners are honorably serving their country.
Wish the article had more hard data. Aren't there programs that duplicate wic?
I am glad to see they are looking at making this a more healthy program. I used WIC several years ago when my oldest was almost 3 and I had an infant. My son had been drinking skim milk since he turned two, but we were only allowed to get whole milk on the program. Needless to say most of this milk was wasted. Skim milk doesn't cost more, but is so much healthier.
WIC is for any child who is low in iron there income level has nothing to do with wether they get the vouchers or not please check your facts more closely. It is probably the best program the government has backed other than well baby clinics (preventative medicine).
1. Carol Runyon, actually there is an income limit, and only pregnant woman and up to 1 year PP, infants, and children to 5 years are eligible.

2. Sharla Jones, I don't use my WIC checks on some stuff (like juice), but even though I don't use it, it doesn't mean the government wasted the money on the food because it was never purchased. The only way money was wasted is the paper for the checks, the ink, etc.

3. You can only buy this produce at farmers markets, not grocery stores -- it says specifacly on the check.
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