SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC, received nearly $1.2 million in additional federal funding this year. The funding will boost the food supply for the program that serves 280,000 persons each month.
“This increase is much needed and timely because many local WIC programs are operating at full capacity,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “As food costs increase, more Illinoisans can benefit from the WIC program and the extra nutritional food it provides for women and children.”
The increased funding comes as WIC celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. The federally-funded program, administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), has helped many low-income women, infants and children achieve dramatic gains in health and nutrition.
WIC provides nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support and coupons that may be redeemed for nutritious foods to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and infants and children up to 5 years of age. Together these help mothers, babies and children achieve the diet they need for proper growth and development. WIC provides referrals and coordinates services with other community health care services for eligible families.
“We are very proud of the WIC program’s proven success in improving the health and nutrition of Illinois’ most vulnerable population,” Governor Blagojevich said. “WIC’s 30th anniversary provides an opportunity to spread the word about just how important this program is to ensuring a healthy future for families with young children in Illinois.”
In Illinois, the WIC Program began in 1974 with a caseload of 12,000 low-income families through eight local agencies serving nine counties and currently serves more than 280,000 women and young children statewide each month. The 18 WIC Food Centers, full service neighborhood facilities, in Chicago alone serve approximately 75,000 participants and employ more than 450 staff.
“Investing in the WIC program is an investment in the healthy futures of Illinois families,” said IDHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D. “National studies show that every dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC saves between $2 and $4 in Medicaid expenditures for newborns and their mothers.”
Studies have shown that Medicaid-eligible infants born to women who participated in WIC and received assistance in getting health care have 65 percent lower rates of low birth weight, 74 percent lower mortality rate and 42 percent lower health care expenditures during the first year of life when compared to infants born to Medicaid-eligible women who did not participate.
Working with the Illinois Department of Public Aid, the WIC program has increased the proportion of children who are enrolled in WIC and who have health insurance from 78 percent in December 2000 to 89 percent in March 2004. Studies have shown that low-income children enrolled in WIC have a lower rate of anemia and better test scores than those who did not participate in WIC.
Working with the Illinois Department of Public Aid, the WIC program has increased the number of infants and children who are fully immunized. Currently, 84 percent of all the active WIC children have received all required immunizations by 24 months of age, which is a great improvement from 43 percent when the campaign began in September 2001.
“WIC is important to Illinois families in so many ways. WIC enables parents to properly feed their children during critical early years of growth and development, assuring normal growth, reducing levels of anemia, increasing immunization rates, improving access to regular health care and improving diets,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
To be eligible for WIC, participants must have an income level at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty standards and have a health or nutritional risk. For additional information and to find the nearest WIC clinic, call 1-800-323-4769.