Iowa is seeing an expansion of the WIC program, which provides nutritious food to low-income mothers and their children. WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, channels U.S.D.A. funds through the state health department for vouchers that recipients use to buy specific foods.
Brenda Dobson, chief of the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Nutrition and Health Promotion Bureau, says the program is far-reaching. Last month, the program served nearly 72,000 people in Iowa.
Among them, about half of all infants born in the state, about 20 to 25-percent of all pregnant women in Iowa and 20-to-30% of all children between the ages of one and five.
Dobson says some people are surprised to hear that half of the babies born in Iowa are in families receiving WIC vouchers. “It is an astounding number,” Dobson says. “That’s actually been a statistic nationally for a number of years but in Iowa, it has increased to that level in the last couple of years.”
Dobson says mothers receiving WIC vouchers must qualify for Medicaid and be living in Iowa but they don’t have to be U.S. citizens.
Dobson says racial diversity among the 72,000 Iowans receiving WIC vouchers last month is about the same as the state’s general population.
The U.S.D.A. spends $53-million in Iowa every year for the WIC nutrition program.