The federal government budget shutdown’s effects are expanding beyond federal campgrounds at Marion Reservoir and the Department of Agriculture service center to healthy food for pregnant women, infants, and young children.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week directed local coordinators to hold November and December food vouchers issued through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — commonly called WIC.
“That’s terrible,” said Pat Dalke, who handles WIC at Vogt’s Hometown Market in Hillsboro. “What about those families with babies? Nobody that gets WIC can afford $150 for formula a month.”
WIC provides vouchers for specific foods to families that meet income eligibility requirements. To qualify, a family must include a pregnant woman or a child 5 or younger. The foods available through WIC are nutrient-rich, county WIC Coordinator Sherrie Moody said.
Foods available include:
- Milk (cheese may be substituted).
- 100 percent fruit juice.
- Peanut butter.
- Canned beans (dry beans may be substituted).
- Whole grains.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Infant formula.
- Baby food and cereal.
WIC vouchers are normally issued for three months at a time. October vouchers haven’t been affected, and November and December vouchers could be issued if the government shutdown is resolved before then.
At any given time, Marion County has 170 to 180 clients receiving WIC vouchers, Moody said. WIC participation also includes nutrition education, which hasn’t been affected by the shutdown so far.
Moody said the income guidelines for WIC aren’t as strict as for the program formerly known as food stamps. Families earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level qualify. For a household of one, that would be $21,257 annually, increasing by $7,437 for each additional member of the household.
“A lot of our WIC families are working families, two-income families,” Moody said.
Moody, who also works with WIC in Morris and Dickinson counties, is available at the Marion County Health Department on Thursdays.
In the county, Vogt’s, Carlsons’ Grocery of Marion, Dale’s Supermarket of Hillsboro, and Peabody Market are WIC-approved grocery stores.