The past few months have been uncertain and riddled with anxiety for a lot of people, especially those who were unable to work or have had the hours reduced due to COVID-19. While the food banks in the area are available and more than happy to help, there is another program that may have been forgotten by those with children aged five-years-old and younger that can help. The Women Infant and Children program (WIC) is a great source for families in need of help.

“Shelby, Cut Bank and Conrad all offer the program,” said Toole County Health Nurse Blair Tomsheck. “With all the recent unemployment, more and more families may be qualifying for this wonderful program. We want to get the word out that we are here to help.”

WIC is a national, targeted, supplemental public health nutrition program with time limited participation. To participate in WIC a family must have an income level less than or equal to 185 percent of the poverty level or participate in certain eligible programs. The average household income for WIC families is $18,626 and 53 percent of all infants born in the United States are on WIC. 

WIC provides four core services: nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy food packages and referrals to health and social services. Providing these services to families has helped ensure that when children reach age five and enter kindergarten they are healthy and ready to learn. The program also provides invaluable education for parents while offering referrals or connections to other services such as prenatal or pediatric care, dental care and social services.

The food choices offered by WIC have grown over the years and now include beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, cheese, cereal, eggs, canned fish, peanut butter, milk and 100 percent fruit juice, as well as infant formula and infant cereal and baby food. The program has found since updating the food package WIC families’ food purchasing habits have become healthier and children have scored higher on the healthy eating index. 

WIC families pay for their WIC foods using an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. Making the move from paper vouchers to the EBT cards has reduced the opportunities for fraud and abuse, ensuring WIC remains efficient and effective.

For more information, any questions or to apply simply contact your county health department. In Toole County call (406) 424-5169, Glacier County (406) 873-2969 and Pondera County (406) 271-3247.

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