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Aid program looks to supply healthier foods to recipients

By Staff | Oct 2, 2009

The WIC program in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties is being changed for the first time in 30 years.
Approximately 22,000 women, infants and children are enrolled in the program in the three counties. Changes being made to the program nationwide will increase access to healthy food alternatives.
“This new food package will allow women and children in our community access to more fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” said Shannon McEwen, program director. “Also, we will now be able to offer ethnic foods, which is so important for the diverse population we have here in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties.”
WIC is looking to add whole grains, fruits and vegetables to people’s diets in order to meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Healthy People 2010 Goals and American Academy of Pediatrics.
“They have changed it to come more in line with the food pyramid,” said Jennifer James-Mesloh, spokesperson for Lee County Health Department.
Soy milk, canned fish, whole wheat bread, brown rice and soft corn tortillas are now part of the program.
Baby formula is now based on the age and breast feeding of the infant. It separates infants into fully breast-fed, partial formula and full formula.
The food package for children is also based on age: one package for 12 months to 2 years old, and another for children older than 2.
Some reductions in the program were made for the amount of formula given to breast-feeding infants, eggs, milk, juice and cheese. Juice for infants, tomato juice and carrots for breast-feeding women were eliminated.
The new WIC regulations require that additions of food or supplies will not increase the costs of the program.
Eligible women and children will continue to receive food checks with a list of items that can be purchased. There are 75 authorized grocery stores in Southwest Florida where the checks can be used.
In order to be eligible for WIC, women must be pregnant or breast-feeding or have a child under the age of 5. They can also be eligible if they are on Medicaid, Temporary Cash Assistance or food stamps.
WIC also offers nutritional education, breast-feeding support and referrals to get health care for no additional costs.
For more information on WIC services, call 344-2000.