Oklahoma is one of many states that have about two weeks of federal money left to finance a nutrition program that provides food for thousands of women, infants and children.
If the government shutdown does not end by Nov. 1, Oklahoma will join several other states that cannot fund the Women, Infant and Children program, a federally funded program that provides nutritious food to supplement the diets of women and their children.
In Oklahoma, about 90,000 infants, children and mothers receive WIC benefits each month.
“We serve a very vulnerable population,” said Terry Bryce, the director of Oklahoma's WIC program. “Over 50 percent of the infants born in the state of Oklahoma are on the WIC program, and that's true not just for the state of Oklahoma, but for the nation as a whole.”
Since Oct. 1 when the government shutdown began, Oklahoma has financed the WIC program with $7 million in carry-over money, federal money the state didn't use last budget cycle, along with about $540,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA gave states money during the shutdown to help them continue running their WIC programs.
Bryce said the WIC program has been shown to improve the health of the women and children who participate. For example, pregnant women who participate in WIC receive prenatal care earlier, according to the state Health Department.
Children who participate in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and are less likely to be anemic, according to the agency. Women and children on WIC can choose from WIC-approved foods, including cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juice, eggs and dairy and nondairy milk.
This is the first time Bryce has seen a government shutdown that affected WIC, he said.
Bryce, who has been state director for about eight years, has worked with WIC program for 21 years. He took the job with WIC because he felt like he could help people.
“It gave me satisfaction in terms of a career and some self-satisfaction in that I was working for a program that was doing some good,” he said.