The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food and Nutrition Program is aimed at ensuring pregnant women and mothers of young children have access to food staples. The program is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Allegheny County was a pilot site for the national demonstration project in the 1970s.
“Allegheny County Health Department opened the first WIC Clinic in Pennsylvania and issued the first WIC voucher on May 28th, 1974,” said Kathryn South, a public health nutrition administrator with the Allegheny County Health Department’s WIC Office.
WIC serves about 16,000 clients in Allegheny County.
“The state WIC program currently serves an average of 254,000 women, infants and children under the age of 5,” said South, “and we have 270 locations throughout 67 counties in the state of Pennsylvania.”
Families with qualifying incomes get food vouchers for items such as milk, eggs, cheese, juice and infant formula. Public Health Nutrition Administrator Gary Sentel said the program helps ensure mothers-to-be good pregnancy outcomes.
“We get to do some nutrition counseling and provide them with the food that they need for a healthy pregnancy,” said Sentel, “and also with breastfeeding counseling, we help that be a successful experience for the moms.”
Approximately 110 grocery stores in Allegheny County accept WIC vouchers, and increasingly, vouchers are accepted at farmers markets.
Allegheny County Health Department Director Karen Hacker addressed county WIC employees, speakers at the 40th anniversary celebration also included the Health Department deputy director and retired WIC staff members involved in the program at its inception.