DeKALB – Kay Chase didn’t know about the Women, Infants and Children program until she started working for it.
Chase is the program coordinator for the DeKalb County branch of the federally funded food and nutrition assistance program, commonly referred to as the WIC Program, which serves qualifying low-income families across the nation.
WIC Program officials serve about 1,875 clients a month in DeKalb County, Chase said, but they want to serve more. Clients in the program receive $40 to 80 a month in coupons for USDA-approved foods, as well an education on nutrition, including breastfeeding.
“We want to serve people out there that need to be served,” Chase said. “There’s people out there who need food.”
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children younger than 5 are eligible for the program depending on their income. A family of four that earns up to $43,568 a year, or $1,816 monthly, is eligible.
The WIC Program is funded by the federal government.
The amount of money they receive is load-based, said Cindy Graves, director of community health and prevention. This means if the program gets more clients, they should get more money, Graves said.
The WIC Program in DeKalb County receives about $318,000 a year, which is distributed by the state.
WIC Program officials have distributed posters in laundromats, libraries and local food pantries to get the word out about their program. They’ve also relied on word-of-mouth resources.
That’s how DeKalb resident Megan Jackson heard about the WIC Program. Her former sister-in-law suggested she sign up after she became pregnant.
Jackson, a seven-year client who has been in and out of the WIC Program because of age requirements with her three children, said her family has saved a lot of money going grocery shopping.
“My kids drink a lot of milk,” Jackson said. “[Coupons for] milk alone has given us huge savings in our household budget.”
The program also helped diagnose medical issues that Jackson’s 4-year-old son was having as anemia. Children in the WIC Program receive hemoglobin tests, and one check-up found Jackson’s son’s high milk intake was affecting the iron levels in his blood, Jackson said.
According to the National Institutes of Health, milk and antacids can interfere with iron absorption.
“I probably wouldn’t have known this without WIC,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought to have [his hemoglobin] tested.”
WIC Program also has a walk-in clinic open from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. every Thursday and Friday for its clients. Officials in Lake County will stop by the DeKalb office in January to see how the walk-in clinic works.
Chase said some confuse their program with services such as Medicaid or Link cards, but the WIC Program is different in that it provides educational tools that teach families what to buy at the grocery store.
It also provides much-needed support to its clients, Jackson said.
“I am treated very well,” she said. “I feel like the case workers really care about what I have to tell them.”
To learn more
Those who qualify for the WIC Program include women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum women; infants and children under 5 years old, including foster children; and families with an income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
To schedule an appointment with the WIC Program, call 815-748-2402. For information, visit www.dekalbcounty.org/Health/women/wic.html.