More Hoosier women and families now eligible for WIC program

INDIANAPOLIS - A federal nutritional benefit program has changed it's eligibility requirements. Leaders with Indiana WIC said the Women, Infants and Children program has new guidelines in effect that increases the number of families likely able to enroll.

The change comes after revised federal poverty guidelines took effect.

Indiana WIC is a supplemental nutrition program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and managed by the Indiana State Department of Health. It provides healthy foods, breastfeeding support and nutrition education to pregnant women, postpartum women, breastfeeding mothers and children up to the age of 5 who are at health or nutritional risk and meet income guidelines.

“We’re capturing mothers as soon as they become pregnant and providing valuable services while they’re still prenatal and that leads to healthy outcomes throughout their children’s lives," said Indiana WIC director Eldon Whetstone.

2017 WIC Guidelines (Provided by the ISDH)

The program has grown in recent years. It now serves a little over 50 percent of the children born in Indiana.

The program is one President Donald Trump has said he'd like to cut. WIC annually gets more than $6 billion from the federal government. Trump would like to reduce that by roughly $1 billion.

Supporters said the need is still there and cuts should be avoided.

“We want more people, especially women to get help and be on it," said Rhonda Bayless, the executive director at the Center of Wellness for Urban Women. "Especially pregnant women and we want our children to start off with good nutrition.”

The most recent numbers regarding infant mortality rates by state lists Indiana in the bottom ten. Another study has found WIC participants have a better mortality rate than those who don't enroll in the program.

“If we’re seeing more need, making cuts doesn’t make any sense," Bayless said.

Whetstone is hopeful the program will survive and has in the past.

“WIC has enjoyed positive bipartisan support throughout the years and we think it does a lot of good for people across the country," he said.

Individuals with incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for WIC. Families who receive Medicaid or Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) benefits already meet the income requirements. Families who do not qualify for these programs may be eligible for WIC because of its higher income limits. For a full list of guidelines by family size, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/19695.htm.

Using WIC benefits is easy and convenient. All Indiana WIC participants now use an EBT card that allows them to purchase authorized foods anytime during their 30-day benefit cycle. For more information about Indiana WIC or to find a clinic, visit www.wic.in.gov or call (800) 522-0874.