WIC programs in jeopardy in Arizona?

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Some Arizona counties are considering dropping Women, Infants, and Children, WIC, a federally funded program supplying important nutritional services and support for eligible pregnant or post-partum individuals and their children from ages 0-5 years old.

We learned more about this from Will Humble, Executive Director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

“It’s a nutrition assistance program, so it’s way different from food stamps…. WIC is really special, it’s a formula, there is a list of things you can buy as a food package benefit on WIC. It’s things like fruits and vegetables, certain amount of meat…,” Humble said.

These counties are unable to meet the deliverables that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has for the program, and they’re losing money in their WIC programs. Humble says there are more than 184,000 families enrolled in the program.

“There is not enough money to run the program anymore and so if you don’t have the staff you can’t make the appointments, the people don’t redeem the coupons and you start losing participants, money keeps going down and you’re unable to meet the deliverables the USDA is asking you to meet,” Humble said.

Humble says the last time WIC was passed was in 2010 and Congress authorized it for 5 years, the law expired in 2015.

WIC uses nutritional education, breastfeeding support, nutrition help, and referrals to more services as mechanisms to improve the health of the low-income individuals it serves. Family income needs to be below 185% of the federal poverty limit in order to qualify. WIC money flows from the USDA to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS), then goes to the county health departments and some Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHC) and tribes.

“The county health department people are like we got to keep this program we see the results in the community. They know for example that a family enrolled in WIC costs the state Medicaid agency. It pays for itself three times over,” Humble said.

Humble says the WIC programs in Arizona are currently not in jeopardy but that could change in the future if Congress does not reauthorize the program.

Will Humble, Executive Director, Arizona Public Health Association

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