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.

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.

Kandra Miller and her son, Christian, shop for food at Wal-Mart. She uses WIC credits to buy items that will help supplement their diets.

Bouncing on her mother's knee, Sophia Rounds sat in a green onesie, a snail prominently displayed on the front, and pulled her mother's brown hair. Throughout their appointment, the 5-month-old blonde kept tugging her mom's hair, prompting Jill Rounds to look down and ease her baby's grip every couple of minutes as she answered a series of questions about herself and Sophia.

Iris Pointer, a health professional assistant at the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health, was leading the Roundses through their first visit as participants in the Women, Infants and Children program.

"Are you breast-feeding?" "Where are you coming from?" "When was your due date?" Pointer asked in rapid succession. "Did you smoke while you were pregnant?" "How much did she weigh when she was born?"

Rounds, who is a kitchen worker at Hallsville High School, is not entirely new to WIC. She enrolled in the program in Fort Madison, Iowa, before moving to Columbia about a month ago with her daughter and her husband, Jeremy, who assembles truck axles at Dana Corp.

"I don't know how some people do without it," Rounds said of WIC. "It helps out because formula is so expensive. Getting milk and cheese, it helps me as well. It helps me to have the energy to keep up with her."

WIC AND FAMILIES

Columbia and Boone County have offered WIC services for about 30 years. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds WIC through the state of Missouri, and the program receives contributions from the city and county. It provides services to children as old as 5, and pregnant, postnatal and breast-feeding women. Clients such as Rounds and her daughter receive money for specific nutritional foods intended to improve their diets.

The Roundses are part of a trend that's seen WIC begin to serve more families with two working parents. There are, however, children in WIC who are being raised by single fathers or mothers as well.

WIC coordinator Carolyn Ezzell said it's a common misconception that WIC is associated with only pregnant teenagers. "It was never meant to be just for that," Ezzell said. "It's always been meant for families." Mary Martin, public health manager for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said the economy is responsible for a larger number of two-parent families seeking WIC services.

"The economy has gone down," Martin said. "When you have gasoline that costs over $2 a gallon and people have to drive to a low-wage job, when you have a supplemental program, people are going to apply for it."

More children are also staying in the program longer, sometimes from the time they are born until they reach age 5. Their mothers, on the other hand, can only be in the program for up to 12 months if they are breast-feeding and up to six months if they aren't.

Ezzell said there is more diversity these days in who receives WIC benefits. "We are serving working families," Ezzell said. "There is no typical WIC family. Grandparents and single dads are sometimes heads of families who bring their children to WIC."

Children have always constituted the majority of WIC's enrollment. Kids older than 1 have historically received the majority of the foods and services that WIC provides, and many of them are part of two-parent families.

In September, Columbia's WIC clinic saw 863 children older than 1, out of roughly 2,241 participants. That compares to 605 babies and 680 breast-feeding women they saw during the month. This year, Columbia's WIC caseload has risen from a low of 2,063 in February to 2,241 patient visits in September. Last year, the average monthly caseload was 2,043.

The increase is part of a statewide trend. Glenn Studebaker, WIC technical assistance coordinator, said that for all the WIC agencies in Missouri combined, the caseloads for August and September were 139,578 and 139,084, respectively. Both were record highs for those months. Last year, WIC saw an average of 135,000 Missourians per month.

Studebaker said it's difficult to tell exactly what caused the spike, but he thinks it could be a combination of high birth rates in the U.S. and rising food costs.

"I know 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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