If you are a BYU mom, there’s a good chance that you don’t know about WIC benefits — and a good chance that you qualify for them.
WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, aims to help low-income women and their children by providing nutritional education and funds for healthy foods like formula, protein, dairy and whole grains.
To qualify, you must either be pregnant or have a child under five and meet low-income guidelines, as stated on the Utah WIC website.
According to Jennifer Floyd, the outreach coordinator for Utah County WIC and office manager of Payson WIC, only 37% of those eligible in Utah County are taking advantage of the program; meaning 18,000 people that could be receiving money for food, aren’t.
Federal funding is granted to the Utah County WIC office based on the number of people using the service, which means the more eligible people that apply, the more funding is provided according to Floyd.
“Some people worry that if they take the help, they’ll be taking it away from someone else. But that just can’t happen with WIC. We get more funding if there’s more people,” Floyd said.
As a mother of two with a husband who is a full-time student, BYU publishing alumna Oakli Van Meter met the criteria. She started receiving WIC benefits shortly after her second child was born.
Van Meter found that it was nice to have WIC take some financial pressure off of her family — even if her situation wasn’t extreme.
“We weren’t necessarily wanting for things; it wasn’t like we were super stressed about groceries before,” Van Meter said. “It just allowed us to stress less about things like getting milk or getting cheese, or certain things that we probably wouldn’t have gotten without WIC.”
WIC applicants are also asked to present proof of address and income at their first appointment. However, Floyd made it clear that immigration status will not be jeopardized or affected by participation in the program.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with legal residency in the United States. It only has to do with address in Utah County because we serve the people in Utah County,” Van Meter said.
While other government programs also provide food benefits to a similar demographic, WIC offers additional support specific to the development of children. A key aspect of this is nutrition education and breastfeeding support.
Once accepted, participants are paired with a dietician to teach them about raising their kids with a nutritious diet — meetings that Floyd said would cost around $100 per session outside of the program. Lactation consultants are also available, along with other health department resources.
Whitney Bigelow, a BYU journalism alumna who used WIC when she was a student, found the nutrition education beneficial to her child’s health.
“It kind of just made me more aware of what I was eating when I was pregnant, because I’m not a health nut, so I wasn’t informed about what I should and shouldn’t be eating for my unborn baby,” Bigelow said.
There is substantial evidence to show that participation in WIC improves children’s physical and mental development. For Sophia Smith Jensen, a senior in the BYU mathematics education program, taking the steps to apply was “pretty straightforward.”
“It was a lot easier than Medicaid to apply for it. I just went on the website, just, like, Googled ‘Provo WIC office,'” Jensen said. “Then I just submitted some of my information and then they had me set up an appointment to come into the office, and then I had to show proof of my income and proof that I live in Provo.”
According to Floyd, the staff at her WIC office sees a lot of college students and loves to help them. It’s an office full of friendly faces that work hard to make applicants feel comfortable.
“It’s not like going to the DMV where everyone has a sad face, you know, but a lot of us are moms,” Floyd said. “A lot of us either have little kids or have raised little kids. There’s toys in all of the waiting areas. Everybody’s really friendly.”
Readers can visit the Utah County WIC website for more information and to apply for benefits.