The number of Missouri women, infants and children receiving nutrition information and food assistance through the WIC program has grown nearly 13 percent since 2008, state health officials said.

More than 152,000 women, infants and children in Missouri currently receive WIC checks to buy basics such as cereal, milk and produce each month. That number is up from an average of 135,000 in 2008. In Texas County, the annual caseload is 10,308 with an average monthly caseload of 859. The monthly number hit a high in January with 898. February’s number was 808 – which down due to the short month and snow days. The program is administered by the Texas County Health Department.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children‚ commonly known as WIC, seeks to improve the health of low- and moderate-income families by providing access to nutritious foods and helping to develop healthy habits. The program is provided at no cost to eligible mothers, babies and children.

“Good nutrition is essential to giving babies a healthy start in life,” said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Providing nutritious food and health information to pregnant women, as well as mothers of infants and young children, helps women make healthier choices for themselves and their families.”

Under guidelines introduced in 2009, the WIC program increased the amount of food provided to mothers who breastfeed their babies full time to encourage women to breastfeed their babies for up to 12 months.

“Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months and reduces the risk of allergies, asthma, diabetes and certain childhood cancers,” Donnelly said.

The revised food packages add new food categories and improve the nutritional value of the food options available. The changes are intended to better meet the needs of the wide range of WIC clients. Under the new rules:

*WIC clients can purchase whole grains and fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.

*Beginning at six months, all infants receive infant fruits and vegetables, while breastfed infants also receive infant meats.

*Soy milk and tofu may be given as an alternative to milk, with medical documentation.

*Canned beans are offered as an alternative to dry beans.

*The amount of milk, eggs, juice and cheese is reduced for both women and children.

*Juice is eliminated for infants.

*The amount of infant formula is reduced for partially breastfed and older infants.

“The new food packages are lower in fat and cholesterol, higher in fiber and limit added sugar and sodium,” Donnelly said. “These new options help WIC participants improve their diet and maintain a healthy weight.”

WIC services are provided by 118 local agencies, mostly county and city health departments, at 250 locations throughout Missouri. Available services include nutrition education, counseling, screening and risk assessment, breastfeeding support, referrals to health care providers and social services agencies and food assistance.

The Texas County Health Department has a registered dietitian on staff.

To qualify for the WIC program, participants must:

*Visit a local WIC clinic to have their nutritional health status assessed by a health professional.

*Provide proof of identity and residence in Missouri.

*Meet certain income requirements. A family of four can qualify for the program with income up to $3,400 per month.

For more information, contact the Texas County Health Department.

WIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.


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