Colorado News Connection | Eric Galatas
Congress is running out of time to fully fund a program that provides food and health support for breastfeeding moms and kids up to age five.
Greta Allen, policy director with the Colorado Blueprint to End Hunger, said if Congress does not address a $1 billion shortfall for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children – known as WIC – over two million families will lose critical support, including 25,000 new or expecting parents and kids in Colorado.
“WIC serves almost half of all infants born in the United States,” said Allen. “The program provides nutritious foods, referrals to health care, information on healthy eating, and really is a lifeline for low-income new families.”
Current funding for WIC is set to expire on January 19 unless Congress acts.
House Republicans have proposed cutting WIC benefits in a U.S. Department of Agriculture spending bill to try to reign in what they see as runaway government spending.
The move comes after Congress, under threat of defaulting on the nation’s loans, negotiated new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients – SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps.
WIC helps families buy infant formula, baby food, fruits, vegetables, and other approved nutritious foods.
Allen noted that every dollar invested in WIC creates significant savings in healthcare costs by preventing low birth weights and improving child health outcomes.
She added that access to healthy food as an infant improves a child’s ability to succeed in school and become a financially independent adult.
“WIC is actually celebrating its 50th anniversary as a program, and this is the first time in its history that we are not seeing bipartisan support,” said Allen. “It’s just unacceptable that this investment is in question because we are talking about women, infants, and children.”
Nearly 92,000 Colorado families participated in WIC last year, and Allen said more than $35 million WIC dollars were reinvested back into Colorado communities.
She added if Congress doesn’t fully fund the program, some families will be affected more than others.
“It will have a disproportionate impact on Black and Hispanic families,” said Allen. “This is because we know that families of color are more likely to qualify for assistance due to the ongoing and systemic economic hardships and barriers that they experience.”