US Government Shutdown: Food Assistance Shortage for Women & Children

When the U.S. Government shut down two weeks ago, I couldn’t believe it at first. When I finally accepted what had happened, I thought it would last for a day or two, at most. I thought there was no way such an asinine approach to hindering a constitutional law would actually work, and things would go back to normal when everyone realized how ridiculous it was. The duration of this shutdown and the childishness occurring in the US Government is really starting to make me mad. Every US citizen – and world citizen for that matter – can probably find at least one reason to take this situation personally by now. Fellow Girls’ Globe Blogger, Emma Saloranta, wrote an article about how the government shutdown is affecting women’s reproductive health and her own family planning. That article was published a few days after the shutdown. Now two weeks later, more problems are emerging and the same problems are becoming worse.

Featured Image WIC
Featured image:
© Alexandrabel | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

The WIC program provides “supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics, and screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services” to low-income, nutritionally at-risk infants, children (up to age 5), and pregnant women.

WIC began in 1972 and was developed by physicians who were witnessing their patients, women and infants, suffering from illnesses caused by a lack of food and nutrients. After being provided healthy food, these women and children no longer needed medical treatment. (Coincidentally, WIC helps lower the cost of the overall US health care system, but that’s another story.) Learn more about the program through visiting the WIC website.

“WIC serves 53 percent of all infants born in the US!”

Due to the shutdown, the program is running out of resources, and in some states not providing new vouchers.

Among the numerous services cut off to the people of the US right now, I find it sickening that women with INFANTS and young CHILDREN are being cut off as well.

It’s time to get personal! WIC is not only crucial for the MILLIONS of women, infants and children that are supported by the program in this country, but it played an important role in my own family. When I was five years old my parents became the foster parents of my 2-month-old cousin. Having two brothers, I was ecstatic to gain a baby sister. Little did I know the sacrifices my parents made to make sure my cousin would not be taken to an unknown foster family. Without the WIC program and government support she may have not grown up as my sister. At that time my mother was in law school and my father was an editor for a local newspaper. My mother is now an attorney and works for the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch and my father works in the Connecticut public school system. 

Not only were our lives made a little bit easier and our stomachs more nourished through the WIC program, I was also able to learn a little bit about nutrition at age five. I knew that Cheerios were healthy and that Fruit Loops were not even an option. I could find my way through the grocery store, picking out the WIC approved items on my own: formula, two percent milk, eggs, orange juice, etc. As my dad’s grocery partner, I never felt ashamed to stand by his side when he pulled out the WIC vouchers (of course I was 5, and didn’t know the what that type of social humiliation felt like). However, I think my parents’ demeanor while grocery shopping helped me feel comfortable. Even today, I will put up a fight when people shun those on government food assistance. Maybe we could have raised my sister without WIC, but we would have been a lot more stressed out and a lot more strapped for cash than we already were. 

I learned a lot from the WIC program, but most importantly it taught me that people are supposed to help each other when times get hard. This has been a guiding force in my life and has directed both my educational and career endeavors. I know that everyone is not as lucky as me to have such empathetic parents, but let’s use some common sense here. Open the U.S. government, get the WIC program back underway, and allow our fellow citizens more access to health care!

How has WIC helped you? If you have a personal story to share, I would love to hear it! You can post a comment here, tweet @LizAFort, Email me directly at liz.fortier@gmail.com, or send a message to the Girls’ Globe contact page. Don’t forget to check out our guidelines for commenting first!

I know I am not the only one who has a personal account of WIC. Feminist Hulk , fellow WIC recipient and online feminist superhero agrees. Follow her on Twitter and look to her website to find resources for women with children while WIC services are cut off during the government shut down. You can also read about a recent NPR interview with Feminist Hulk here!

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Category: Politics
Tagged with: Child nutrition    Feminist Hulk    Food    food assistance    Government shutdown    Health    Nutrition    United States    United States Department of Agriculture    US Government    WIC

Liz Fortier

Liz earned a Master’s of Public Health degree from New York University in 2012, during which she researched harm reduction measures for intravenous drug users, and worked for a diabetes prevention research study in East Harlem. Liz traveled to Mexico and South Africa with NYU to understand the approaches taken toward improving community health in those countries. Liz has consistently been invested in the health of marginalized populations and improving access to health care for those living in poverty. As a way to entrench herself in one of the world’s most impoverished cities, Liz volunteered at the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. Liz spent 2013 in South Korea teaching English and investigating gender issues there. She is eager to share what she has learned about health and poverty and how those issues relate to gender equity. Liz lives in Brooklyn, New York. Be inspired to take action toward global gender equity! Follow Liz on Twitter @LizAFort

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  • Without WIC I do not think that I would have been able to feed my 3 kids. I am still supposed to be getting WIC for my 2 youngest kids and in NJ they are not giving out any new vouchers, I was supposed to get my new set this month and now I am on hold. I call once a week but as long as the shut-down is going on in NJ they are not giving any out. I was just told that the free lunch may be out of money by the end of this month and I am a little bit scared.
    I am only working part time and my fiancee is a contractor that does not always work. I am aggravated at this situation.

    • Liz Fortier

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I am saddened to hear about the struggle you are facing. It is so important to share these stories because putting a face to the problem can urge the government to move more quickly. The idea that free lunch may be closed by the end of the month is heart wrenching. Thank you again for sharing this.
      I am currently putting together a petition to re-open WIC and other food assistance services during the shutdown, and your story and others will be extremely helpful! I will link the online petition to this post shortly!

      In the meantime, please follow this link http://www.feministhulk.net/wic-and-shutdown-where-to-get-baby-food-and-formula.html to find out if any resources are available for you in NJ.

      • Thank YOU so much for bringing this issue to the forefront. So many people have a negative idea about the people that get assistance. I am a working mom and had the means to support my kids but got laid off and the construction field is not what it was! I am fortunate that my kids do not need formula and have actually been collecting some from friends and family to donate to the local food banks. I am looking forward to the petition, as I think if you are going to shut down the govt, food and assistance should be off limits!

  • Liz Fortier