Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
A government program that provides millions of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and children with money and education to help them eat nutritious foods is on the list of agencies that will lose funding as part of the partial government shutdown. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides families with children under 5 nutritious meals in an effort to stave off learning disabilities and other health effects of premature birth and other complications. More on the shutdown’s effects on the program from CNN Money:
“No additional federal funds would be available,” to continue the program in the event of a shutdown, the United States Department of Agriculture, which runs WIC, said on its website. “States may have some funds available … to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period.”
There are just under nine million women and children on the program, according to USDA. The average monthly benefit is about $45.
That often comes on top of about $135 a month in food stamp benefits. WIC benefits mandate the money can only be spent on an approved list of healthy foods.
Suspending the program is a terrible idea, said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, head of the National WIC Association, which represents the regional offices that administer the programs.
While a suspension would only be temporary, it would send the wrong message to mothers, and perhaps convincing some that it’s not worth signing up for, he said.
Greenaway said the program actually saves taxpayers money.
It costs $20,000 per pound to bring a premature child up to normal weight, he said. All told, for every $1 spent the program saves $4.21 in medical costs, he said.
Image: Mother feeding baby, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 20th, 2013
Government-subsidized food assistance programs aimed at families, specifically the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), started offering more whole grain options, including whole wheat bread and brown rice, in 2009. A new study by researchers at Yale University has concluded that the changes have positively impacted the eating habits of the families who use WIC services. More from Time.com:
Before the changes, breakfast cereals were the only grains offered to these women. But after 2009, WIC food packages included whole wheat bread, and 50% of WIC cereals contained whole grains. WIC-authorized stores were also required to carry whole wheat bread and cereal on their shelves.
Did the changes help consumers to include more whole grains in their diet? Researchers from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity studied bread and rice purchases made at a WIC participating supermarket chain in New England for two years, and reported their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. They found that prior to the WIC changes, most food assistance purchases included white bread and white rice. But after the revisions, the amount of 100% whole wheat bread purchases tripled and brown rice purchases rose by 30%.
By providing more whole grain options, the researchers say, WIC officials were able to meet their goal of increasing whole grain consumption among those relying on food assistance programs.
Image: Whole grain bread, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 20th, 2012
As many as 15 percent of parents who struggle to make ends meet add water to their babies’ formula, using “formula stretching” to get more out of their infant food purchases, a new study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics has found.
The study followed Cincinnati families who qualify for federal food assistance and free formula through a program called WIC. MSNBC.com reports that the assistance isn’t enough for many families:
Even though the majority of parents were receiving help through foods stamps and WIC, many did not have enough food to feed their families. In fact, some 65 percent of families ran out of WIC-supplied infant formula most months. And the result, in many cases, was that parents diluted or cut back on formula for their infants.
This kind of formula stretching may have consequences for the infants, Beck said.
“There will be a subset of children who will have what is called ‘failure to thrive,’” Beck explained. “More often, though, the ramifications of this tend to be less visible — problems with cognition and behavior. In some it may lead to obesity later in life.”
While some might point to breast feeding as a solution, not every mom is in the position to do this for her child. In some jobs it’s virtually impossible to express milk during the day when a mom is away from her baby.
“Clearly, we encourage and actively support breastfeeding,” Beck said. “The reality is that a relatively low percentage of our patients breastfeed by the time they reach us. If they do, we continue to encourage it and have a breastfeeding clinic if they need it. Although they likely wouldn’t require formula, we need to do education and a nutritional assessment for mom. Also, as the first year progresses, even fewer families continue to nurse.”
Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock
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