By Sallie James
For pregnant mothers wondering if they should change their diets, or who would like information on breastfeeding or just worried about the additional costs associated with newborns, The Women Infants & Children program (WIC) can help.
It may not completely eliminate the stress and uncertainty associated with having a baby, but it does offer nutritional guidance from Licensed Dietitians, breastfeeding support from International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants, referrals to other programs and an electronic benefits card to buy nutritious food and artificial baby milk, if necessary.
And there’s no waiting for a pregnancy confirmation. No waiting for the birth.
“Once you find out you’re pregnant, you can apply,” said Reginald Shagoury, Public Health Nutrition Program Director.
“We help families ensure a healthy beginning for their baby from pregnancy until the child is five-years-old. We want families to receive the benefits and services WIC provides.”
Best of all? WIC is free.
“WIC helps mothers, babies and young children stay healthier,” said Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, which operates WIC locally. “Families may be missing out on valuable nutrition benefits because they delay signing up.”
In Broward County, 59,221 residents are estimated to be eligible for the program but only 73 percent of those deemed eligible actually apply, Reginald noted.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” he said. WIC serves pregnant women, mothers for six months after delivery, breastfeeding women and children under age 5.
“Some women do not enroll early,” Dr. Thaqi said. “We want women to sign up when they learn they are pregnant so they can receive WIC benefits right away.”
Families are eligible if household income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. That means monthly income under $1,926 for one person, $2,607 for two, $3,289 for a family of four, etc. Florida Medicaid recipients qualify automatically.
What foods are covered? Cereal, whole grains (bread, rice, tortillas, pasta), canned tuna and salmon, fruits and vegetables, baby foods, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, beans, fruit juice and more.
In addition to nutrition services, DOH-Broward offers free dental fluoride varnish to children up to age 20 in WIC-eligible families. The treatment, which comes in kid-friendly flavors and is painted onto the teeth, prevents cavities.
Residents can find WIC services at the seven Broward offices in Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Sunrise, Pompano Beach, Pembroke Pines, and Lauderdale Lakes.
Information: 954-767-5111 or http://broward.floridahealth.gov. Appointments are available.