Available Help

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

CHESAPEAKE — WIC. It’s an acronym shoppers see daily on the milk cases at their local grocery stores.

Yet many may not know that this stands for Women, Infants and Children, let alone the extent of a decades-old program that can give families a much needed boost.

And that includes those who could benefit from the program, but don’t because they are unaware of its scope.

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Simply, WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for prenatal and post-partum women and children from infancy to the age of 5.

For families in the eastern end of Lawrence County, their local WIC office is an unassuming trailer off the main street of Chesapeake. There Jamie Chapman, WIC nutritionist, interviews prospective clients and keeps tabs on those already on the WIC roster.

WIC’s goal is to give children a healthy head start in life with good nutrition and to do the same for mothers-to-be. Post-partum mothers can stay on the program for an additional six months after they have had their babies. If they are breast-feeding, they can stay on for a full year.

Every three months clients can pick up a packet with vouchers for milk, cheese, eggs, juice, cereals, beans and peanut butter. Mothers who are breast-feeding are also eligible for vouchers for tuna and carrots.

These vouchers can be used at participating grocery stores to cover 100 percent the costs of these brand-name foods.

“One of our main goals is to reduce childhood obesity,” Chapman said.

Sometimes that is the result of children mimicking the unhealthy eating habits of their parents.

“Sometimes they don’t know,” Chapman said. “No one has sat down and talked to them. A lot has to do with eating habits or eating out a lot.”

That is one of Chapman’s roles as she interviews clients to find out likes and dislikes. Then she can gear a voucher packet for that family.

If a client doesn’t like milk, but enjoys cheese, the voucher packet will be adjusted.

There are also examples of where a family simply can’t afford the more nutritious items, Chapman says.

“Some families can’t afford milk and eggs,” she said. “It is cheaper sometimes to buy the fattening, high-processed foods.”

Right now the Chesapeake WIC office has a caseload of approximately 1,100 clients a month. However, Chapman says there are more out there who could benefit from the program.

In some cases, that is because there is the misconception that clients must be on welfare to be eligible.

Eligibility for WIC comes up the program’s income guidelines, which is an income that is 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.

“I think that people have the wrong idea about us sometimes,” Chapman said. “I would like to be able to do more outreach. I would like to go out to different facilities and talk to people at churches. Either they don’t know (about the program) or have the wrong idea.”

For more information, prospective clients may contact the Chesapeake office at 867-4956 or the Coal Grove office at 532-2646.