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Springfield WIC Program at Risk if Government Shutdown Continues

Baby Eating Food
Credit: Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services

Despite the government shutdown, the Springfield-Greene County Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program remains open, but come November, if the shutdown persists, local families who rely on the WIC program for food might not have that resource anymore. KSMU’s Julie Greene reports. 

The WIC program is a nutritional program that aims to improve the overall health of pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants and children under the age of five. Services include healthy food vouchers that are redeemable at local grocery stores, nutrition and breastfeeding education and referrals to local health care providers and agencies. Currently, WIC provides its services to 53% of all infants born in the United States.

The program is federally-funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and supervised by state and local health departments. For 9 years, Kevin Gipson has been the Director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

 “If the government shutdown lasts much longer than toward the end of October, we’re going to have to furlough our staff as well as quit issuing those vouchers. It’ll certainly have an effect on our recipients; it’ll have an effect on our 23 staff, and it’ll have an effect on our economy because there’s $500,000 a month or more that’s being spent at local grocery stores by this program,” Gipson said.   

Monique Hyden is one of the 8,000 participants in Springfield’s WIC program. The shutdown of WIC would affect her twice as severely because, not only are she and her three-year-old daughter, Ma’layjia, WIC recipients, but she also works part-time at WIC as a breastfeeding counselor.

“If me and my husband doesn’t eat, then that’s okay as long as my daughter can eat and get what she needs to continue her development the way she needs to. And honestly, if I lost this job, okay, but that throws me back in the lurch of how am I going to take care of my daughter? And with the basics: rice and beans, if it comes down to it, I know that doesn’t seem like a lot of money for most people, but when that’s all you’re eating, and you’re going through it three times a day, that’s a lot,” Hyden said.  

Hyden is set to graduate from college in the next few weeks, and she’s actively looking for a new job. She says she tries to be optimistic that something will work out by the end of the month, but until then, all she can do is wait and hope for the best.

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.