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9 million babies and mothers may be harmed by WIC shutdown

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 2 2013 11:25 p.m. MDT

The government shutdown has cut off federal funding for WIC, leaving low-income moms and babies across the country who rely on the program vulnerable.

Casey Valentine

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The government shutdown is already impacting the vulnerable population of low-income moms and babies across the country who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC.

According to Forbes, "Over 8.9 million moms and kids under 5 living near or below the poverty line rely on the program’s supplemental vouchers for healthy food, breastfeeding support, infant formula and other necessities dispensed at clinics nationwide." But the program is deemed "non-essential" and will not receive government funding during the shutdown.

A report from the USDA said the impacts of the shutdown on the WIC program would be almost immediate. "States may have some funds available ... to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period," it said. The report continued that while some contingency funds are available, they would likely not cover the month of October.

Forbes reported the situation is most dire in Arkansas and Utah. In Utah, where 65,000 moms and babies are on WIC, the program has already stopped accepting new participants. All Utah WIC clinics are closed, according to the program's website.

According to Forbes, workers at still-open WIC clinics accross the country are concerned about the impact the shutdown will have on womens' ability to get food for both themselves and their children.

Stacey Ninness at Oklahoma City’s WIC office worries that because women on WIC have to attend regular nutrition classes in order to obtain food vouchers, her social workers might miss signs of iron deficiencies or even child abuse when clinics are forced to close.

At a WIC office in Wisconsin, a worker named Judy Fedie told Forbes her biggest concerns were about babies getting fed. “I’m worried about a number of things, but top of the list is babies not getting breast milk. In Wisconsin, a can of formula costs $15, and it will maybe last three days. I worry families will be forced to make tough choices about how to feed their babies.”

Email: dmerling@deseretnews.com

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