Nutrition programs at risk under sequester

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON – Nutrition programs whose federal funding is categorized as discretionary and, therefore, at risk under the sequestration, were bracing for a cutback in services after March 1.

A fact sheet issued by the White House on Feb. 8 to warn of the probable effects of the sequestration asserted approximately 600,000 women and children would be dropped from the US Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) from March through September 2013. Additionally, at least 1,600 state and local jobs connected to the providing of WIC benefits may be lost as a result.

WIC provides nutritious foods, nutritional education and referrals to health and other social services free of charge to participants. WIC serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to the age of five who are at nutrition risk. During fiscal year 2011, the number of women, infants and children receiving WIC benefits each month averaged almost 9 million.

Federally assisted programs like Meals on Wheels would be able to serve 4 million fewer meals to seniors, according to the White House fact sheet. These meals contribute to the overall health and well-being of participating seniors, including those with chronic illnesses that are affected by diet such as diabetes and heart disease, and frail seniors who are homebound, the White House said. The meals may account for 50 percent or more of daily food for the majority of home-delivered participants.

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