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.

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.

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.

Betty Archie, nutrition educator at WIC, talks with Lasonta Miller and other women about ways to bring the family together during dinnertime.

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. Applicants must bring their children, proof of income and residence and identification to their first session.

During the first visit, the staff will weigh and measure the applicants and take blood tests with finger pricks to test hemoglobin levels. The assessments determine whether the applicants are eligible and whether they have nutritional risks. Only 1 percent of those determined to be eligible during the first telephone pre-screening are turned down during the first visit.

The WIC program encourages people to check their income eligibility before making an appointment. Once clients are accepted, they are required to have appointments every two months, or every month if they have a health problem such as anemia or underdevelopment, to receive checks. They must be recertified regularly to remain eligible for benefits.

Tyra Chatman is a WIC recipient whose 2-year-old son, Davion Harris; 1-year-old daughter, Tiaisha Harris; and 3-month-old daughter, Zadia Johnson; are all part of the program. Her children need to be recertified every six months.

Chatman said during a recent visit to the Health Department that recertification screenings can be difficult with three young children. Her kids found ways to entertain themselves — Zadia slept in a car seat and Tiaisha and Davion played with the toys in the waiting room — but her two older children kept drifting over to their mother every few minutes.

"It takes a long time, especially when you got all three of them here needing to be certified," Chatman said. Harris, one of the full-time nutritionists, said promoting a balanced diet and healthy choices is WIC's main purpose. "We're constantly promoting healthy lifestyles," Harris said. "This includes emotional and physical well-being."

WIC clients receive monthly checks for specific amounts that must be spent on designated foods that differ among participants. The checks average $55.92. Checks for women are worth no more than $33.25; those for infants can be as much as $112.22.

The checks specifically list what a person can buy and how much they are allowed. For example, someone with an infant 6 to 12 months old can buy a total of 403 fluid ounces of formula concentrate, 96 fluid ounces of infant juice and 16 ounces of infant cereal. There are also specific federal guidelines that stipulate who can sign for a check and when it can be used.

Danitra Moncrief, whose daughter, Tyla, is 6 months old, is allowed about 31 13-ounce cans of formula, two 8-ounce boxes of infant cereal and two 38-ounce bottles of infant juice for her daughter and four gallons of reduced or nonfat milk, a dozen eggs, a 16-ounce package of cheese, one 36-ounce or three 12-ounce boxes of cereal, and eight to 12 ounces of frozen juice concentrate a month.

"They help people a lot because the milk is very expensive," Moncrief said of WIC. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be able to pay for the milk."

Even though Moncrief's fiance, Tyler, works as an electrician, her family still depends on WIC's services, including the checkups.

"They check up on both of us," Moncrief said. "They say, ‘Without a healthy mother, who's going to keep the baby?' No one in my household is suffering, but without this we would be."

Though WIC helps a lot, Martin emphasizes that it, like the food-stamp program, can't provide all the food people need to have a balanced diet.

"The whole process of WIC is not to feed your family for a month, but to supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium and protein," Martin said. "You can't live on WIC, but you can live better."

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