Southern Seven WIC program meets area families’ needs during pandemic
For families who already were struggling to make ends meet, the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges for those enrolled in supplemental meal programs, such as lack of pre-approved foods in stores and revised in-person consultation.
In response to the need, Southern Seven Health Department has implemented new strategies to help families served through its Women, Infants & Children, WIC, Supplemental Nutrition Program – all while maintaining a safe environment.
The WIC program safeguards the health of low-income women, infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk.
Families meet regularly with Southern Seven Health Department WIC staff to discuss nutrition education, including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health and other social services.
As a result of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic’s social distancing guidelines, WIC in-person appointments have changed to curbside assistance and calling or texting clients to conduct visits by phone.
Southern Seven WIC clinic sites are open one day per week and coupons are disbursed at curbside.
Offices are open in Alexander, Massac and Union counties on Tuesdays, Hardin/Pope counties on Wednesdays, and Johnson and Pulaski counties on Thursdays.
Southern Seven WIC staff is also calling and texting participants to schedule appointments over the phone when possible.
The health department said that possibly the biggest concern for families is empty shelves at grocery stores.
Southern Seven says it wants to assure participants in the WIC program that food and formula supplies are intact.
The health department said that families should not panic buy in response.
Instead, Southern Seven offers the following tips that participants can use when shopping.
•Try shopping earlier in the day. You will not only get there when shelves are stocked, but you will improve your chances for greater social distancing.
•Ask stores when their next truck will deliver and if they know if the item they are looking for will be on the truck. Then try shopping the morning after the truck delivery.
•For those enrolled in WIC, do not wait until the last few days that WIC coupons are valid – start shopping a few weeks earlier.
For those with infants, purchasing human milk from sources rather than a Milk Bank can be very dangerous for your baby and is not recommended by Southern Seven.
In addition, homemade infant formula is not safe and can make your baby very sick. Contact Southern Seven for additional resources if you are having trouble finding your baby’s formula in stores.
“Southern Seven Health Department’s WIC program encourages families to eat right, bite by bite,” said maternal child health manager Linda Crossland, with Southern Seven.
“We promote eating a variety of nutritious foods every day, planning and creating healthful meals each week to help kids grow. For over 40 years the WIC program has been providing nutrition education and counseling to help families develop lifelong healthy eating habits.”
For information about Southern Seven’s WIC program, call 618-634-2297 or visit www.southern7.org.
WIC is administered by the Illinois Department of Human Services and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.