With the recent government shutdown affecting government programs, many local residents remained unsure of the impact on services they use daily. One of the most prominent and misunderstood of these programs is Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
To get a better idea of what exactly WIC provides to the local community, Director Shelly Schneider spoke with the Hownikan about Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s WIC Program, its mission and why despite many misconceptions, it is a worthwhile and accountable program.
For those who don’t know, what is WIC?
Schneider: “WIC is a nutrition-related program of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sector of the USDA and is specifically intended for “women, infants, and children”. It provides supplemental nutrition for women with low incomes who are breast feeding or who have kids that are five and under. Low income is designated by the standards set by the federal government, and typically if a family qualifies for food stamps (SNAP) or Medicaid, they qualify for WIC.”
Is it the same as SNAP (food stamps)?
Schneider: “The system works similarly to the food stamps program but differs in terms of what can be purchased. When using food stamps, or a SNAP card, most food items are available at designated grocery stores.
But under WIC, the benefit checks are only for food items that are officially listed as healthy and nutritious by the FNS. This is why people will see “WIC approved” signs on certain items in their local grocery stores.
Other than the beneficiary checks, the organization itself provides food items that are considered healthy and beneficial to the recipients.”
How many people does WIC serve in the immediate area in and around CPN headquarters?
Schneider: “We currently serve approximately 500 women, infants and children per month in this area.”
What services does WIC provide at its site here at CPN Administration?
Schneider: “Despite the common misconception, we aren’t just a food and nutritional handout program. We provide nutrition education and services to help our parents choose nutritious foods. We do this so they can learn themselves how to improve their own personal health and that of their family.
Some topics we commonly discuss with WIC clients include the benefits and best techniques of breastfeeding, healthy food choices and portion control. It can be simple stuff like giving a parent advice on how to manage picky eaters. We also instruct parents on how best to wean a baby to a cup, introduce solids and place an emphasis the importance of iron in the diet.
We perform blood work in order to check for anemia, which is why we stress the need for iron in these young children’s diets.
Yes, we also distribute food instruments in the form of checks to our participants. But they aren’t just a hand out that can be used for anything. These checks are just like a prescription in that women, infants and children are given prescribed foods based on their category and nutritional risk factors. These checks can only be redeemed at authorized retail grocery stores.”
How many staff members do you employ, and what are their roles?
Schneider: “Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s WIC Program currently employs nine full time staff which consists of a Director, Nutritionist, LPN, Receptionist, Vendor Coordinator, and four WIC Specialist/CPAs. We also employ four Breast feeding Peer Counselors under contract labor.
How did you initially get into working at WIC?
Schneider: “I came to work for WIC in August of 1987 as the Data Entry Clerk/Vendor Coordinator. I was a single mother needing a Monday through Friday job. I had no way of knowing that it would turn into a career.”
Why is WIC important in this age of cutting back public funding?
“When it was set up in 1974, WIC had some baseline goals that by most measures, it has achieved. Its initial aims were to increase the length of pregnancies, the use of prenatal care and decrease early births, low birth weights and anemia in infants and children.
Looking at the numbers pre-WIC and post-WIC, these goals have been achieved. Increased rates of breastfeeding improved growth rates as well, a trend that has also been attributed to the WIC program.
WIC isn’t just money being handed out, it is preventative. The USDA has found that every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation by Medicaid-eligible women resulted in healthcare cost savings of roughly one to three dollars.”
If you would like to know more about the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s WIC Program, please call 405-273-3216 or visit http://www.potawatomi.org/services/health/wic.