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Here to Help: Am I eligible for WIC?

Posted January 21, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— In tough economic times, putting food on the table can be difficult, especially if you have several hungry mouths to feed. To get help,  families are turning to the federal WIC program.

"I really need help by the state,” mother Shana Tull said.

First pregnant at age 15, she now has two daughters: a 3-year-old and a newborn. She says she knows single parenthood can be expensive.

"It (WIC) helps with formula, and the baby cereal, and then it gives you eggs and beans and all of that. So when you really don't have the extra money to spend on groceries, it does help you out a lot,” Tull said.

WIC stands for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The federally funded program targets low-income families.

How to apply for WIC How to apply for WIC

"I would probably be on the side of a road in a cardboard box (without WIC), honestly. Just 'cause, my rent is $800, then you got car insurance and all the bills and all the things that they (her children) need. Just with the economy, it is just too expensive,” Tull said.

In Wake County, 18,000 people are in the WIC program. The ailing economy has pushed up caseloads 15 percent over last year.

"We have a lot of first-timers ... asking how does this work, what do I need to do? I need help. I just lost my job,” said Margie Caban, a WIC administrative supervisor.

You can have a job, but there are income limits based on family size. You must be pregnant, postpartum or have a child under the age of five. You must also be a North Carolina resident.

An important aspect of WIC is that it is not just about getting money for food, it is about getting education about how to eat right, too. Mothers in the program are required to see a nutritionist.

"A lot of families come in here uninformed. And when they come here, they learn so much through our classes, they learn so much through our nutritionists, through our pamphlets," Caban said.

Whereas the food stamp program allows you to buy anything edible, the WIC program only allows vouchers for specific, healthy foods. Tammy Pitchford, her husband and their three children say they are OK with the limitations.

"I'd say it's made quite a big difference because my kids, of course. I try to feed them healthy with vegetables. But at the same time, it is expensive. WIC is a tremendous help with things like eggs," Pitchford said.

The WIC program offers breast-feeding support, as well as classes on cooking and how to save at the supermarket. There is even a program during the summer that offers vouchers for fresh food at the Farmers Market.

"So it's really a program about keeping kids healthy – and pregnant moms," Caban said.

For more information, contact the North Carolina Nutrition Services Branch, or your county's WIC office, or call 1-800-FOR-BABY.

22 Comments

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  • mdenton3 Jan 23, 2009

    AMEN ! To the comments by OCT.

  • Oct Jan 22, 2009

    In a country as great as ours, there is absolutely no reason for any of our citizens to go to bed hungry at night. The problem, as I see it is the abuse of public assistance and the continuing to have children which you can't afford. (By the way these girls did not get pregnant by themselves, and I hope if the fathers aren't paying child support they are in jail.) What is happening is that we, the middle class (or should I say former middle class?) has paid and paid and paid for these programs (not to mention the illegals that receive all that free help) so that with the economy being what it is today, we are becoming (and very rapidly) the working "poor" and who is going to help us? Certainly not the very rich or politicians.

  • sayitoutloud Jan 22, 2009

    I posted a comment earlier, but for some reason it didnt get posted. Im not sure why, there wasnt anything wrong with it. So here it goes again.
    I think there should also be a Birth Control plan when you sign up for this program. If you cant afford one, why in the world would you have another. Any girl/woman that is on this program should either be put on the depo shot, or should have and IUD inserted. This is so no "accidents" happen while you are living off the government and the tax payers.
    And the whole thing with this WIC program is abused just like food stamps. I used to be a Cashier while in high school and its crazy. They used WIC and food Stamps to buy groceries but had CASH for beer and smokes. If I have to pay for your food, the little bit of the money that you do have better go to something more important than beer and smokes.

  • 68_polara Jan 22, 2009

    800 a month rent. Must be a nice place, certainly nicer than any place I've ever rented. Than again luckly I've never had to ask for government support.

  • FromClayton Jan 22, 2009

    how about if we spend that money on teaching young girls not to get preagnent at 15 and most of all, DONT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE. The girl in the story has done it TWICE in 3 years. I do not feel sorry for her. Keep your knees together and you wont have these problems.

  • mdenton3 Jan 22, 2009

    The WIC is a wonderful assistance program! ASSISTANCE being the key word. Unfortunately, as with most other ASSISTANCE programs they are abused and have become a way of life for to many.

    My husband and I have 1 child and we take care of our child and needs, do without when WE ADULTS have too, but OUR CHILD is taken care.

    Its ashame that so many good ASSISTANCE programs are abused. It makes it harder and worse for those persons/families that truely need it.

  • kal Jan 22, 2009

    I agree with Delfan. I teach and some students just don;t care about getting pregnant because the govt. takes care of them and the baby. There is NO MOTIVE for anyone to break this cycle and it needs to be stopped NOW!

  • G-Ovlov Jan 22, 2009

    When our daughter was born 16 years ago, my husband and myself were both working, but were having a difficult time making ends meet. We are very thankful that the WIC program was in place for families like ours. The program paid for formula, juice, and cereal for her. This allowed our money to be able to pay for our food, gas to our jobs, and other living expences.

    With all of this being said, I want to say that I agree that you should be able to pay and care for your own children when you have them, but there are those of us out there who do use this program the way that it was intended.

    And as for the woman who made the comment about the eggs and being o.k. with the healthy choices she can now make. We need to remember that sometimes people say something one way and the person doing the interview writes it down another way. So let's all be careful about casting the first stone. One day you might know someone who really needs these programs.
    Josie

  • Pseudonym Jan 22, 2009

    Whatever happened to private charities and churches? We as Christians need to be the ones taking care of them, NOT THE GOVERNMENT. How long will it be before WIC recipients are up the proverbial creek because of an Atlas Shrugged type scenario, in which the people paying the bills go on strike?

    On another thought, I love the name: WIC: Women, Infants, Children. Forget the nasty, evil MEN!!

  • chfdcpt Jan 22, 2009

    And there are other out of your control that can affect you. Little things like accidents that make you loose your job after workmans comp time runs out and you loose 1/3 of your salary.

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