WIC program removes items in light of federal budget cut

WIC removed items that are not frequently requested to lower grocery costs.

Due to an expected lower budget, a few items including cheese have been restricted for women receiving WIC vouchers. Breast-feeding mothers and women expecting multiples are now the only eligible women to receive cheese.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children is undergoing changes in Missouri.

Erin Harris, the Columbia/Boone County representative for WIC, said the following items will be removed: 46-ounce fruit juice cans, canned salmon, Quaker oats grits, tofu, goat milk, evaporated milk and Lactaid-brand lactose free milk. Cheese will also be removed.

“Cheese is being removed for children and pre-natal mothers," Harris said. "Breast feeding mothers and pre-natal mothers expecting multiples (twins, triplets, etc.) are allowed to keep cheese.”

Harris said the reasoning behind allowing breast-feeding mothers and pre-natal mothers to keep the cheese is due to the fact that they need to provide more calories. She said she believes it will be the most missed item.

"They cut some very non-popular items such as tofu, goat milk, and grits,” Harris said. “The cheese will have the most impact -- a lot of children enjoy cheese so I could see a lot of families being disappointed at the removal of cheese for their children. But cheese has a lot of saturated fat so that is why it was picked along with cost.”

The cuts are due to an expected lower budget, part of Rep. Paul Ryan’s, R-Wis., newly authored “Path to Prosperity” federal budget.

According to Ryan’s press secretary, Kevin Seifert, the budget will fix the “flawed incentive structure that rewards profligacy and poorly targets assistance to those in need.”

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps) offers a good case study in how low-income assistance programs are in urgent need of reform,” Seifert said in an email. “Spending on SNAP has quadrupled in the past decade, growing unsustainably fast in good times and bad, due the open-ended nature of the program (states receive federal dollars in proportion to how many people they enroll). This leads to a bloated program rife with waste, fraud and abuse.”

Harris said the items were removed due to containment costs, which had been getting higher and higher for groceries.

It should be noted that while a few families have expressed concern, WIC tried to remove items that weren’t frequently requested and replaced the cheese with another item, Harris said.

"A few families have voiced concern wishing that they were still there,” Harris said. "We removed a pound of cheese but replaced it with a gallon of reduced fat milk. They get the same quantity of food, just replaced an item. Not many families request the other items."

The Missouri WIC Association's objective is “to provide peer support, exchange and influence information, share management techniques and strategies, enhance professional knowledge, promote legislative awareness and work toward quality community nutrition by impacting public health and nutrition services in the state and nationally,” according to the group's website.

The food part is only supplemental to the other areas of WIC, Harris said, who does not expect future cuts.

“The food items are a bonus as we provide the families with nutritious foods to provide nutrition,” Harris said. “I don't see any foods being removed. Last time we had a reduction was in 2005 or 2004, so I don't see any cuts in the near future."

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