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July 18, 2008

I Have a WIC Child

1 I will first start off by saying that I am appreciative of any services that are out there for my family, including the New Jersey WIC program.  WIC, if you have been lucky enough not to know, stands for Women, Infants and Children, and provides certain foods to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, along with infants and children up to the age of five who are at risk for poor nutrition and have health problems, of which my 22-month-old son, Tyler, qualifies for.

My husband and I (Good Morning, America, The Early Show, Today, where are you?) have had the most unfortunate luck to both become ill simultaneously and to find ourselves too sick to work.  We qualify for some programs of which WIC is one of them. 

The first time I went there in April I had to bring Tyler to prove he was real.

Most of the women there spoke in other languages. Some had a couple of kids. Some had a couple of kids with one on the way. The few who resembled New Jersey suburban women like myself looked as shell shocked and lost as I was. Tyler would be considered "at risk" for poor nutrition problems since he was in the 5th percentile for weight and was, at the time, slightly anemic. Mind you, I do feed my child, thank you very much, he just happens to be on the tall and thin side. And I'd start a phone sex line before I would let my child go hungry, just in case you may be worried.  I am a professional voice-over artist, after all.

It was time for the "weigh in."  We have a similar scale at home which Tyler knew how to use so he jumped right on.  As he giggled, I found myself screaming inside of my head, "HOW DID I GET HERE?!?!"  This was not supposed to be how it was for Tyler!  My son was supposed to have a big backyard with lots of toys, and a college education of which his parents would be at least helping him pay for.  My child was not supposed to be the son of poor parents! 

I was given the "checks" for the foods they would provide:  milk, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, cereal, and juice.  There were some problems here as Tyler hated eggs, did not like juice (I know, weird kid!), and we moms who have children under the age of two are advised not to give our children nuts until they are at least two years old, everyone knows that!  There were no substitutions, I was told.  The WIC woman whispered to me, "You can drink the juice and eat the other stuff yourself."  God, I felt naive, and it also felt wrong to make use of what was rightfully Tyler's.

The New Jersey WIC program also has a Farmer's Market Nutrition Program which provides locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.  Tyler did not qualify for this because he did not turn two years old soon enough.  I called to make sure I had this right - and I did.  "But my son eats fruits and vegetables every day; he has teeth!"  The woman said she understood, but that this was the policy.

In case you are wondering, when you have financial difficulties requiring you to turn to programs such as WIC or the Food Bank, it is nearly impossible to find fresh fruits or vegetables for your family.

It seems to me that  now that we are poor, we are looked upon differently. We are no longer deserving of fresh, healthy food because we cannot afford it.  Tyler looks like the same child when we had money, but he has now become somehow different. 

And what about the WIC moms who have been poor all their lives and continue to bring children into this world?  No matter what you may think of them, if any child has a right to say, "I wish I had never been born!", it is a child born into a situation like this.  How are those children different from Tyler, how do those children differ from your own?

I have learned from this hopefully temporary experience that it doesn't matter what we think of people who seem to keep having children that they cannot afford.  We need to at least treat the children they are having with respect, and provide them with good healthcare and good, healthy food choices. 

A child is a child.  No matter where they come from, none of them should be treated differently.

  Original New Jersey Moms Blog Post. 



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