Years ago when my husband and I were young, we struggled to make ends meet. We were both full-time students, with one infant and another on the way. For about a year we lived in subsidized housing. We used food stamps, medical assistance, and stood in lines to receive government commodities distributions. I was grateful, but I sort of hated it, too. I mean, my parents had struggled when they were newly weds, but that was long before I came along. I was fourth out of five, and grew up in a lovely parsonage, and was used to a higher standard of living. My husband was the only son of a first generation Polish Catholic family. He’d grown up on a dairy farm, and had learned to be independent, self-sufficient, and proud. We did not want to be on welfare. But the alternative – drop out of school and try to find a decent job – just didn’t seem to make sense in the long run. And so we accepted the help. We both graduated, and have been paying taxes ever since.
I remember how it felt to use food stamps. Back then we got colored bits of paper that looked like Monopoly money, and everyone who stood in line in the grocery store knew that we were buying our groceries with their tax dollars. I felt like they were checking out the items I had chosen, wondering if I were spending their money on pop and candy. I felt like I had no business driving a decent car – that we should sell the Firebird and buy a wreck, even though my husband’s car was paid for in full, ran well, and cost us no repair bills. Accepting Federal Aid made me feel stupid. All except for WIC.
WIC is Not a Welfare Program
W.I.C. stands for Women, Infants, and Children. It is NOT a welfare program. It receives its funds from the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Human Services! I don’t know why that makes a difference, but it does. I was always treated with respect as I went to the required monthly meetings to get my dose of nutritional education along with the coupons that would supply me with free milk, eggs, juice, and iron-fortified cereals.
Just last week I dragged my daughter in to the W.I.C. office to get her signed up. She dreaded the trip, perhaps because she’s had such dreadful experiences with the Department of Human Services. We waited less than five minutes in a cheery waiting room filled with other young moms and their babies. We met with a social worker who took her information, checked my granddaughter’s weight, height, and blood iron-level with calm patience, even when the 2 yr old was acting particularly two-ish. Then we met with a nutritionist who gave her some advice on meals and menu-planning. We left less than an hour after we arrived, and walked out with a cute, generic looking “credit card” that will make all her purchases discretely.
We Can All Benefit From Nutritional Education
Studies Show That WIC Works
W.I.C. works. It provides supplemental nutritious foods for women who are pregnant, nursing, or postpartum and not nursing. It also provides such foods for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers up to age five, who may be at nutritional risk. Studies have shown that spending the money on nutritional programs like W.I.C. is cheaper in the long run, as medical care expenses drop. Women on W.I.C. have healthier babies. Children on W.I.C. have larger vocabularies and better memories. Infants on W.I.C. have higher birth weights, lower mortality rates, and are more likely to get all their vaccinations and receive routine medical care.
In some states, W.I.C. also provides vouchers to take to the farmer’s markets in the summer! Fresh, locally grown, organic vegetables! I feel kind of proud. My tax dollars are doing something good, after all.