LEWISTOWN - As of July 1, the income eligibility guidelines for the Women, Infants and Children Program have increased. Those who did not meet the guidelines previously determined for July 2011-June 2012 may be eligible to register as a WIC participant under the 2012-2013 guidelines.
"The income eligibility guidelines for the WIC Program are updated each year, as required both by law and Federal WIC regulations," said Leslie Lankster, acting public affairs director for USDA Food and Nutrition Service. "Individuals must be income eligible for the WIC Program in order to receive program benefits."
The WIC program serves 253,723 Pennsylvania residents each month, averaging a $63.61 monthly food cost per woman, a $763.28 yearly food cost per woman and a $217,425,425 total cost for the year, according to Fiscal Year 2011 data, said Chris Harr, chief of grants and retail store management section for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
In an effort to keep women aware of their assistance options, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's WIC Program creates print materials, which include the updated income guidelines, Harr said. These materials are provided to the local WIC agencies that provide WIC services in all 67 counties, health care providers and other social service agencies, who refer families to WIC for services, he said.
According to the Food and Nutrition Service website, those qualifying for the program consist of pregnant women, breastfeeding women, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants and children of five years or younger. Applicants' income must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines, currently $41,348 for a family of four.
"The WIC Program mission is designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behaviors for mothers and their children by providing nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy foods, and referrals to health and social programs during critical periods of growth and development," Harr said.
Benefits of the WIC program include supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics as well as screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services. While only permitting the purchase of healthy and organic foods, the WIC program has been found to improve the diet and food intake of women and children experiencing nutritional risk.
For more information on the WIC program or to view the 2012-2013 Income Guidelines visit www.fns.usda.gov/wic/default.htm. To register for the program, contact Family Planning Plus, the local WIC and nutrition service provider, at 248-5339 or visit www.familyplanningplus.org.