The Roundup -

By Jon Ebelt 

WIC Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Food package changes to increase fruit and vegetable benefit for children


In May, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Montana and nationwide.

According to state public health officials, WIC was launched 40 years ago in Montana as a pilot program on the Northern Cheyenne and Fort Peck Indian Reservations.

Currently, the federally-funded program has grown to 90 clinics located in various Montana communities and all seven Indian Reservations.

“It’s well documented that WIC plays a vital role in the health of Montana’s at-risk women, infants and children,” said DPHHS Director Richard Opper. “This is a program that has been around for four decades, and will no doubt keep providing quality services that help improve birth outcomes and save health care costs for many more years to come.”

Studies have shown that WIC helps reduce the likelihood of adverse birth outcomes such as very low birth weight. The program also is also a strong proponent of breastfeeding, which has shown to be healthier for infants since they receive antibodies from breast milk that protects them against infection.

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary, Montana WIC is announcing several changes to the food package offered to clients as a result of recently adopted federal requirements. Some of changes go into effect beginning May 1, 2014, and the rest in the coming months.

“These changes are designed to help make for an even healthier, more appealing food package to the thousands of people we serve,” Opper said. “The goal is to sustain and increase participation in the program. We think these changes will help us achieve that goal.”

The most healthy and exciting change that goes into effect on May 1 is the fruit and vegetable benefit for children will increase from $6/month to $8/month. “This change will provide a nice boost to fruit and vegetable consumption for young children,” said DPHHS WIC Director Joan Bowsher. “Introducing children to more fruits and vegetables at an early age really points Montana kids in the right direction toward making healthy food choices.”

Another popular change is that participants will also be able to pay the difference if their fruit and vegetable purchase goes over the dollar amount value of their benefit. “This change will make it much more convenient for our clients to use the benefit,” Bowsher said. “It’s sometimes difficult to have their fruit and vegetable purchases add up to the exact benefit amount. Now, clients will be able to cover the extra cost during the same transaction if they want to.”

WIC provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthcare referrals and healthy foods to pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age five. On average, the program serves about 20,000 individuals each year in Montana.

To qualify for WIC, there are certain income guidelines and one must be a Montana resident.

For more information about the program, call 1-800-433-0239 or visit


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