Due to the stratification in the American social system and constant existence of the poor the government has set up certain welfare programs to help out the lower working class and poor. Among these programs, WIC was developed. WIC is a supplemental nutrition program that provides nutritious food, nutrition counseling, and referrals to health and other social services to
participants at no charge. It is a federally funded program for which congress authorizes a
specific amount of funding each year for operations. The Food and Nutrition Service provides
these funds to WIC state agencies in which they distribute special WIC foods, nutrition
counseling and education, and administrative costs. (Caan 1997)
WIC provides services nation wide through all fifty states, thirty three Indian Tribal
Organizations, District of Colombia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These eighty-
eight WIC state agencies administer the program through 2,200 local agencies and 9,000 clinic
sites. (Caan 1997) More than 7.5 million people get WIC benefits each month. In 1974, the first
year WIC was permanently authorized, 88,000 people participated. By 1980, participation was
estimated at 1.9 million recipients and by 1900, 4.5 million. During the fiscal year of 2003, 7.63
million people received some form of WIC. Of all eligible women, infants, and children, the
program is estimated to serve about 93%. (Caan 1997) WIC services are provided in county
health departments, hospitals, mobile clinics (vans), community centers, schools, public housing
sites, churches, and migrant health centers and camps. In communities nation wide, there is
usually a posting in newspapers of the times and locations of clinics to keep all interested,
Pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five are eligible for WIC.
Candidate recipients must meet income guidelines, a state residency requirement, and be
individually determined to be at "nutrition risk" by a health professional. Two major types of
nutrition risks are recognized by WIC, which leads to eligibility. The first is medically-based
risks such as anemia, being underweight, overweight, a history of pregnancy complications,
and/or poor pregnancy outcomes. The second risk is dietary, such as failure to meet the dietary
guidelines or inappropriate nutrition practices. Nutrition risk is determined by a health
professional such as a physician, nutritionist, or nurse, and is aided on federal guidelines.
In regards to choice of health professionals, such as physicians and nutritionist, one latent
function of WIC that is commonly overlooked is the fact that their clients may be forced to retain
services from professionals who are "poorly trained" or "too incompetent to attract more affluent
clients." (Gans) This may be said due to the fact that the middle and upper class society may
choose to go to special and private clinics, which are more expensive and generally only run by
doctors and professionals who are highly respected and prominent in society. This practice keeps
the social gap in society visible, in terms of health care.
In most WIC state agencies, WIC participants receive checks or vouchers to purchase
specific foods each month that are designed to supplement their diets. A few state agencies
distribute the WIC foods through warehouses or deliver the foods to participant's homes. The
food provided are high in one or more of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, and the
vitamins A and C. These are the nutrients frequently lacking in the diets of the program's target
population. Different food packages are provided for different categories of participants. WIC
foods include iron-fortified infant formula and infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin
Cited: Caan, B. (1997). Benefits associated with WIC supplemental Feeding During the Interpregnancy Interval. American. Clinic Nutrition.
Gordon, Anne. (1995). Characteristics and Outcomes of WIC Participants and Nonparticipants. Department of Agriculture, March 1995.
Heimendinger, J. (1994). The Effects of The WIC Program on the growth of Infants. Virginia.
Kennedy, E.T. (1992) Evaluation of the Effect of WIC Supplemental Feeding on Birth Weight. New York.
Herbert J. Gans. The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All. Social Policy July/August 1971: pp. 20-24.
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