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Why WIC: linking families to nutrition

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

She sat in the doctor’s office, 26 weeks pregnant with her second child. Time seemed to stand still as the doctor walked in and gave her a diagnosis she never expected: cancer.

Through countless weeks of treatment, and a radiation session, she counted down to the birth of her child. After a few more weeks, she was called back in for more radiation. That appointment marked the beginning of her child’s formula days.

“Just the small containers that last about three days are $16, which can add up to about $300 a month,” the mother said. “You can imagine the toll it takes on you when you still have to buy diapers, wipes and clothes for the baby, as well as everything else for your family.”

Upon confiding in a friend about her financial struggle, she was informed about assistance she may qualify for: Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

As a nutrition and education program, WIC is designed to assist qualifying pregnant and breastfeeding women, new moms, infants and children under five. The program may also assist any other legal guardian who takes care of a qualifying infant or child under five.

“Once we determine a family is income-eligible for the program, we do a health screen to determine if the family is nutritionally-eligible,” said Jackie Cenis, WIC program leader at Minot Air Force Base and international board-certified lactation consultant. “From there, we create a nutrition plan and carry-out education during each visit depending on the family.”

After every appointment with the WIC office, the family-in-need receives a voucher or check designated for certain WIC-approved foods. Families may use these vouchers or checks in stores that accept them, including the base commissary.

The vouchers can be given for more than just formula for infants, as the mother in the story needed. Cenis works with families to develop a WIC-approved food list that includes fruits, vegetables, milk, whole grains, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, formula and baby food. Accepted foods on shelves at the commissary are marked with an orange sticker.

“In a household with my husband working and me going to school, we don’t make a lot,” said the mother. “WIC has helped us tremendously with ensuring we can afford food for our family. They also educated us on what is needed for each stage of growth with our children.”

Pamphlets with additional information and recipes can be given during every appointment, said Cenis. New recipe pamphlets containing only WIC-approved foods are released every week and include the serving amount and nutritional facts.

“We provide a nutrition education piece to help families,” said Cenis. “We want to teach moms, dads and legal guardians how to feed their children so they may grow up healthy. We want them to know what works and what doesn’t.”

The WIC office also has access to many resources in order to refer families to different agencies they may qualify or need.

“Right now, my oldest is five and youngest is 16 months, and we still receive help from WIC,” said the mother. “The biggest struggle was actually making the call to see if we qualified. Don’t be afraid of being embarrassed or judged, it’s there for a reason: to help.”

For more information or to see if your family qualifies for the WIC program, please contact Cenis at (701) 723-2118. The base WIC office is located inside the Airman and Family Readiness Center at 291 Peacekeeper Place.

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