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Use WIC Program If You Need It, Because Everyone Wants Healthy Children

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2003 – A government-sponsored supplemental food and health education program is available to service members and their families stationed stateside and overseas.

The Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, has been offered to troops and their families in the continental United States since 1972. WIC became available to military families across Asia and Europe beginning January 2001.

Today, about 25,500 service members participate in the Women, Infants, and Children Overseas program, said Danita Hunter, the WICO program manager at the TRICARE Management Activity headquarters in Falls Church, Va. WIC provides dietary advice and nutritious food to pregnant women, new mothers, infants and toddlers, she said. Participation is based on income, family size and nutritional need.

The Department of Agriculture administers the program stateside, where WIC serves 45 percent of all infants born in the United States, Hunter noted. Overseas, WIC is co-managed by TRICARE, medical and Defense Commissary Agency officials.

WIC participants receive health screenings, nutritional education and health counseling services, she said. Those in stateside programs receive vouchers redeemable at local stores for milk, baby formula, bread, cheese, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Service members stationed overseas receive WIC-approved foods at military commissaries and Navy exchange markets.

"I consider WIC to be a valuable health program," Hunter remarked. She noted that some military families, like their civilian counterparts, might simply have too many people to adequately feed on a particular income.

Family size is indeed considered as a factor in determining eligibility for the program, Hunter said. Income alone, she pointed out, is not the determining eligibility factor.

"We want all our children to be healthy," Hunter remarked. "And medical studies show that children who receive a nutritious diet develop more robust immune systems than those with unhealthy diets. This decreases the possibilities of infections or diseases."

Service members serving stateside who want to sign up for WIC can inquire at their installation family support office, Hunter noted. For details on WIC, eligibility rules, income tables and more, visit the Agriculture Department's WIC web site at www.fns.usda.gov/wic. The site includes lists of participating state agencies, addresses, and local and toll-free phone numbers.

Troops stationed overseas, she added, should note there are WIC offices in Germany, England, the Netherlands, Iceland, Spain, Belgium, Turkey, Italy, Japan, and South Korea. Hunter noted that WIC participation can be transferred between overseas and stateside assignments. For more overseas information, visit TRICARE's WIC Web site at tricare.osd.mil/wic/default.htm.

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