Prospect for large WIC cuts identified by report, OFH to meet demand

December 6, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.— As Congress works to reach a compromise on domestic spending legislation, there are growing concerns that nearly 500,000 low-income mothers and children nationwide could be cut from WIC, the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children.

While the Farm Bill is stalled in the Senate, food banks across the nation are reporting rapidly dwindling inventories stemming from a more than 70 percent decline in support from a federal food aid program in recent years.

“Cutting people receiving benefits from WIC means that a greater number of women and children will likely need to turn to our agencies for help, and the food bank already needs to be distributing more food to meet our current increased demand for food assistance,” said Bart Brown, executive director of Ozarks Food Harvest.

The prospect for large WIC cuts was identified in a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities last week, according to Brown.

In addition to WIC, several federal nutrition programs critical to Ozarks Food Harvest and the nearly 40,000 people it reaches each month are also included in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill Congress is currently considering. These programs include TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) storage and distribution, the CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) and the expansion of SSFP (the Simplified Summer Food Program).

WIC is the largest of the programs, and is becoming a focal point for concern about cuts as Congress attempts to reach funding compromises with the White House, according to Ozarks Food Harvest.

Ozarks Food Harvest is a member of the nation’s food bank network, America’s Second Harvest, which says research has consistently shown that WIC is extremely effective in contributing to healthier birth outcomes and improving the diets of pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children who are at diet-related health risk.  It is also able to bring many poor pregnant women into contact with essential prenatal health care that prevents future health problems.

The Farm Bill, which passed the House in late July and is currently being debated by the Senate, would provide much needed relief to food banks and hungry Americans, Brown says.

The nutrition title of the Farm Bill provides policy direction and funding for TEFAP, the Food Stamp Program and authorization for CSFP. The House-passed Farm Bill and the version that was approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee would increase mandatory funding for TEFAP from $140 million annually to $250 million annually. This increase would provide nearly 215 million pounds of food or 168 million additional meals per year to hungry Americans for the next five years.  Both versions of the bill would also strengthen the Food Stamp Program and reauthorize CSFP.

Ozarks Food Harvest urges supporters to contact Senators Bond and McCaskill to quickly approve a Farm Bill and to provide sufficient funding for nutrition programs to ensure that nearly 40,000 people each month do not go hungry in the Ozarks.

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To learn more, contact Lindsey Neddenriep at (417) 865-3411.