As the price of food has increased in Missouri, so has the number of people seeking assistance, said Betty Cassidy, spokeswoman for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC . The number of women, infants and children in Missouri who receive financial assistance to buy groceries has increased 13 percent since 2008. In Boone County, it rose 4.6 percent.
The WIC recently released its data for 2010, which shows the number of Missouri participants receiving WIC food vouchers increased from 135,000 women and children in 2008 to 152,000 in 2010.
The program seeks to improve the health and nutrition of low- to moderate- income families with children younger than 5 years old. Through nutrition education and food vouchers, WIC seeks to improve the nutrition of young children and infants.
In a press release, the director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Margaret Donnelly, said good nutrition is key to help infants and children have a healthy start to their lives.
Vouchers differ depending on whether the child is an infant or older, Cassidy said. She listed milk, cheese, eggs, juice and whole grains as especially important for children.
New guidelines introduced in 2009 increased the amount of food provided to mothers who are breastfeeding. The amount of milk, cheese and eggs were increased for mothers who were breastfeeding. Canned fish was added to the packages as well.
The revised packages also allowed for the purchase of soy milk as an alternative to milk, but medical documentation proving lactose intolerance is required. The amount of dairy, eggs and juice was reduced for families with children above infancy, and juice was eliminated for infants.
The new food packages are also lower in fat, higher in fiber and limit sugars to help participants maintain a healthy weight, the release stated.