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Opinion: WIC keeps my baby fed and my family afloat. Congress must fully fund this critical program

Opinion: WIC keeps my baby fed and my family afloat. Congress must fully fund this critical program

(Photo: Minerva Studio)

By Chezni Carrion

March 5, 2024

In this op-ed, LaCrosse resident Chezni Carrion calls on Congress to fully fund the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), sharing how the program has helped her family.

Last October, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Becoming a mom has been an incredible adventure, but at the same time, the high cost of living has put me in an impossible situation. I work hard as a client services representative at a veterinary clinic, but my wages won’t cover the soaring cost of formula, rent, groceries and my car payment.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – known to most as WIC – has truly kept my family afloat. This critical program provides healthy food, nutrition education, formula and breastfeeding support to millions of parents across the country like me. I first signed up when I was pregnant. It made an enormous difference, helping me afford the nutritious groceries I needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

When my son was born, it was clear within days that my body was not producing enough breast milk. I called WIC while still in the hospital, and right away they helped me access baby formula. WIC also continues to provide healthy food that helps me maintain the breast milk supply I do have.

I can’t put into words how much of a relief it is to know my son’s nutritional needs are covered by WIC. Without it, I honestly don’t know what we’d do. Formula is more expensive than ever. If I had to pay for it out of pocket, I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent or make my car payment. That would cause us to spiral financially.

So I was alarmed to learn that WIC is currently facing a funding crisis. As the cost of essentials has skyrocketed, more and more families like mine have needed WIC’s support. That’s no surprise to me. But I’m shocked and dismayed that Congress hasn’t fully funded the program to address the demand. Unless Congress takes action, WIC could be forced to put families on waitlists or slash our benefits.

For my family, that’s terrifying. I wonder if lawmakers realize how high the stakes are. I wouldn’t have a safe car, a safe apartment, or maybe even food for my infant if I didn’t have WIC. More than 7 million families across the country depend on this program. WIC helps babies get a strong start developmentally and it helps protect parents’ economic security during a very vulnerable and critical time. I can’t think of a wiser investment.

I’m counting on lawmakers to step up and treat this funding crisis with the urgency it deserves. Thankfully, I read that leaders in Congress recently reached an agreement to fully fund WIC — now moms are counting on our representatives to get this funding over the finish line as soon as possible. I want to see our elected leaders focus on policies that support working families. In addition to WIC, we need paid family and medical leave and affordable child care for all – two supports I feel lucky to have and would struggle mightily without. And we need to expand the Child Tax Credit to help all parents meet their kids’ needs.

As Congress continues to debate the next budget package, this mom will be watching closely. I hope you will join me in calling on our elected leaders to stand up for families and protect WIC.

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CATEGORIES: NATIONAL POLITICS
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