COLUMBIA — Amid the federal government shutdown, Boone County’s Women, Infants and Children program has enough money to last through the end of October.
The supplemental nutrition for WIC, deemed nonessential by the federal government, provides low-income mothers and children younger than 5 years old with nutrition information and vouchers redeemable for nutritious supplemental foods.
“There’s a lot of conflicting media reports out there right now,” said Erin Harris, WIC coordinator for the Columbia Department of Public Health and Human Services. “Because the program is truly supplemental, the government doesn’t see it as more than just a food program. We also offer mothers referrals for education and counseling support, and those are essential.”
The program serves 50 percent of all infants in Boone County and benefits approximately 2,600 low-income women and children, Harris said.
“If the program were to shut down, there would be no prenatal assistance for mothers, no checks for things like milk, eggs and cereal. We wouldn’t be able to provide that for them anymore,” Harris said.
The local WIC program serves a “diverse group” of people, Harris said. “Because we have higher income qualifications, we help a lot of working families — those families that are working and struggling to make ends meet. For them, the $50 worth of food that we provide can really make a difference.”
Boone County’s WIC program is usually financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture but is now running on federal dollars from fiscal year 2013, which is essentially money unspent from the previous year. The money should be enough to last through the end of October.
“We haven’t been told procedures for shutting down yet,” Harris said. “The Missouri WIC program will be in contact later on down the road.”
For the time being, all employees of the WIC program are working, and all vendors are able to take checks at grocery stores. And although the national WIC program's website is down, the Missouri WIC program's website remains up and running.
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