WIC Is Essential for Families Like Ours. Congress Must Ensure It Is Fully Funded.

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(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

By LaTavia Michael and Mia Isbell

November 21, 2023

In this op-ed, Pittsburgh moms urge Congress to act now as WIC faces funding crisis, sharing personal stories of how this program supports families here in Pennsylvania and across the country.

As working moms in Pittsburgh, we were disappointed to learn that Congress did not include emergency funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, in its latest funding measure.

We both know firsthand what WIC means for families. With food costs so high, more and more young families need the food and nutrition assistance this program provides. But WIC is poised to run out of funds very soon.

That would be a disaster for families here in Pennsylvania and across the country. As members of MomsRising, we are pressing Congress to fully fund WIC. For us, this fight is personal. WIC has given both our families critical support and peace of mind when we needed it most.

For LaTavia, WIC was especially helpful after the birth of her second child. She didn’t have any paid leave at her job, so she had to take unpaid leave to recover from birth. She had recently married, and on paper she had a two-income household and didn’t qualify for SNAP (food stamps). But without her income while she was on leave, money was extremely tight for her family.

WIC helped fill the gaps. She remembers feeling so overwhelmed and unsure during that time, and she was grateful to not have to scrunch up money for basics like milk, eggs and cheese. WIC even provided funds that could be used at the farmer’s market so her family had access to fresh, local, healthy food.

WIC also provided critical education and support with breastfeeding, which LaTavia struggled with due to a medical condition. WIC made it simple to transition from exclusive breastfeeding to a mix of breastfeeding and formula, providing several cans of formula for when she had to supplement.

When Mia’s kids were babies, she also relied on WIC for access to fresh, healthy food and formula, which was and is extremely expensive. She looked forward to her WIC appointments, because she always knew she would leave feeling educated and empowered, with healthy options for herself and her baby. WIC also helped her learn about her baby’s developmental milestones.

But this year, Mia became a grandmother, and now, her daughter is struggling to access WIC. Three months after her baby was born, she is still waiting for an initial appointment because, with food and child care costs soaring, so many families need WIC’s support right now that the program is overwhelmed. In the meantime, she has to pay $50 per can of formula out of pocket, which is an enormous strain. Now, Mia and her daughter are terrified about what will happen if Congress doesn’t provide additional funding and WIC is forced to institute waitlists or cut benefits next year.

We both know that if that happens, babies, children and parents will be hungrier. Moms will struggle without the breastfeeding support they need. Families will be forced to rely on cheap, processed foods that don’t provide adequate nutrition.

That’s unacceptable. The health and economic security of 7 million pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children is at stake. We are counting on Congress to take immediate action to protect and strengthen WIC. We hope you will join us in calling on our elected leaders to fully fund this essential program.


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