The benefits of the WIC programDo you ever wonder how to feed a picky eater? Are you uncertain when to feed a baby solid food? Or do you just need help stretching your food dollars every month?
By: Bea Haines, The Republican Eagle
Do you ever wonder how to feed a picky eater? Are you uncertain when to feed a baby solid food? Or do you just need help stretching your food dollars every month?
If you are looking for ways to keep you and your family healthy, the WIC program can help.
WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, is the nation’s premier food and nutrition program designed to keep young children healthy while helping hardworking families make ends meet. Federally funded, WIC is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health and services are available in Goodhue County and counties throughout Minnesota.
If you are pregnant, recently had a baby or have at least one child under the age of 5, you may be eligible for WIC. You will need to meet annual income guidelines, but many working families do qualify.
In addition to answers and advice about health and nutrition, the WIC program provides foods tailored to meet a family’s specific nutritional needs. Milk, cheese, eggs, whole grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits and vegetables are some of the healthy foods available through WIC.
The addition of WIC foods can make a big impact in the family grocery budget. A typical child’s food package from WIC can have a value of up to $45. The foods are designed to encourage healthy eating habits as well. By including all of the food groups they also contribute to a healthier diet.
Angie Butler, a Goodhue County WIC participant, shared some of her ideas for using WIC foods and saving money.
“I set a goal to use WIC to support all of my kids’ snacks,” Butler said. Some of her ideas include:
• Keeping raw fruits and vegetables cut up and ready to go
• Using peanut butter and raisins on celery sticks
• Cheese and crackers
• Dry cereal (“Life” is a special treat, she adds)
• Making homemade pizza with WIC cheese
• Homemade Rice Krispies treats or adding caramel dip to apples can be a fun alternative
Pudding can be made at home using a pudding mix and WIC milk. Whole grain tortillas with WIC cheese can be microwaved for a healthful alternative to nachos. Infants who are able to finger-feed can munch on dry WIC cereals as opposed to pre-packaged toddler snacks.
Butler avoids the shopping aisles with chips, pre-packaged crackers and spreads, and fruit snacks.
“I added up what we spent on snack food and it was insane,” she said.
In addition, the processed snacks and extra sugars seemed to cause increased craving and begging for the snack foods. The kids didn’t always take to every new idea immediately, but if it was offered consistently and no alternative was available, they learned that it was their choice.
After time, her children don’t even ask for the processed snacks anymore and Butler finds they are much more satisfied with the healthful food choices. She lost about 10 pounds because she was eating the healthier foods, too.
But the bottom line was even more exciting for Butler. She was able to cut her monthly grocery bill by $350 to $400. She takes the extra savings and puts it into college savings accounts for each of her four children.
As a more immediate reward, she and her husband treat the kids to special outings, such as the Minnesota Zoo or the Science Museum. The children are included in the family discussion, so they know that their healthier eating is being rewarded with something fun.
Butler has become an expert at packing snacks for these outings, since buying concession food is very expensive. They pack their WIC snacks in a cooler and have a picnic.
The WIC Program in Goodhue County is headquartered in Red Wing at the Colvill Family Center. Appointments are required. Clinics are also held on a monthly basis in Zumbrota, Kenyon and Cannon Falls. Call the WIC office at 651-385-4782 for more information or to schedule an appointment.