ARE YOU ELIGIBLE
Call the clinic at 874-7384 for a pre-screening or to make an appointment. The WIC office is at the Sanford-Kimpton Health Department Building, 1005 W. Worley Street.

WIC AND FAMILIES
Columbia and Boone County have offered WIC services to children as old as 5, and pregnant, postnatal and breast-feeding women for about 30 years.

HOW WIC WORKS
People interested in applying for WIC benefits must contact the Health Department to set up an appointment and have a pre-enrollment screening.

MORE THAN CHECKS
WIC's main focus is nutrition but it also provides classes on topics such as breast-feeding, food preparation and healthy consumption of foods.

Melissa Rubio-Hernandez, second from left, shares a meal of beans and fajitas with her family at home. She remembers when the WIC program included credits for fresh produce at the farmers market. "It's sad they took it away," Melissa said. "But the program makes a huge difference in my milk cost. These kids drink a lot of milk."

WHO PAYS FOR WIC

WIC's rising caseload has prompted the city, county and state to increase the amount of money each gives to the program for fiscal 2008. The state is pitching in $251,360 to cover administrative costs, while the city and county are providing $155,253 and $87,330 worth of in-kind services, respectively. State money for WIC actually comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Total administrative costs for fiscal 2008 add up to $493,943. That's up more than $63,000 from fiscal 2007, when the total bill was $430,477.

"The city and the county recognize it as an important program," Martin said. "They want to keep it even though it's not paying for itself."

State contributions to WIC clinics are based on an estimated number of client visits per month. The federal government authorizes the state to give local programs $9.50 per month for every case they take on.

Ezzell said the state pays the clinic to see 2,100 people a month, based on a formula that factors in the total funding available, a county's population, the number of women of childbearing age and the number of women at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. A family of four could be eligible with a household income of up to $38,203 per year. If both parents work, they could earn an average of $9.18 per hour and still qualify for WIC.

The Columbia/Boone County WIC program has seen more than the budgeted caseload for fiscal 2008 in every month of 2007. The clinic will have to put people on a waiting list if its caseload continues to rise without additional federal money.

Ezzell said the contributions from the city and county are invaluable.

"I think now the city and county are going above and beyond," Ezzell said. "This is a federal program that should be funded by more federal money."

Martin said WIC is a labor-intensive program. The local clinic employs two full-time nutritionists, Ezzell and Erin Harris; one part-time nutritionist; three part-time breast-feeding counselors; one full- and one part-time clerk; and four full-time health professional assistants, who are responsible for data entry, income and health assessments and other tasks.

The money that the city, county and state give to the program goes toward workers' salaries and supplies for the program, such as brochures.

"It has to do with people coming in because the more people that are coming in, the more we have to be open," Martin said.

But administrative costs are only a small part of the story. Eighty percent of the state's total WIC budget goes toward food. That expense in fiscal 2006, the most recent year the figure was available, totaled $1.2 million for Boone County alone. The statewide total that year was $81 million.

"That's by far our biggest cost," Studebaker said. WIC food aid helps clients buy specific foods: baby formula, juice, cereal, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cheese, beans, carrots and tuna. These are the only types of food WIC clients can buy with their aid because the program has specific requirements. Substitutions of one type of formula or one kind of vegetable for another are prohibited. The foods are chosen to meet specific nutritional needs, such as protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamins A, B, B6 and C.

"The foods are selected because they have the key nutrients that have been shown to be lacking in the population we serve," Ezzell said. transportation costs are going up, and that usually decreases participation," Studebaker said. "But grocery costs are going up, and that usually increases participation."

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