Friday, February 8, 2013

To WIC or not to WIC?

At 17 Weeks or "The Beer Belly Phase"
I have been dreading this day for a week now. The weather reported ice and I had to drive down to Columbia for an appointment to see if we qualify for WIC. I was nervous that I would miss the appointment because of the weather and have to wait another month, or that I would try to drive there anyway and then crash and die (I tend to think of worst case scenario when I am pregnant), but I was also kind of scared that we wouldn't qualify and it would be a waste of time, but the weather simply rainy and we did end up qualifying. The worst part of it was trying to convince Ravenna to let her finger get pricked for the iron test. For the next year or so I will be on WIC along with Ravenna for a few months until she turns 5 in a few months.

When I first told my mother-in-law that I was applying for WIC she said, "That's terrible!" When I asked her what she meant she replied, "It means that my son can't provide for his family." Well, not quite. On a teachers salary WIC is definitely a blessing for us. Could we live without it? Probably, and I guess that is why a lot of people decide not to use the program. Since it is a supplement the program doesn't provide a ton of food, and it is definitely a big hassle at the grocery store, but the deciding factor for me was twofold: First, using WIC would take a little stress out of our tight food budget; Second, I really needed a lactation consultant after Ravenna was born and then as now our health insurance doesn't cover it whereas WIC provides lactation support in addition to breast pumps, should I need one for a short time as I did before.

Delighted that we qualified with checks in hand I went to the grocery store but while there many times questioned my choice. WIC is insanely complicated, at least for a beginner. I had heard that the grocery store that I shop at has labels on all the WIC items, and they do, but they are very small and often my checks didn't cover the items that were marked. Sizes have to be exact except with cereal? Peanut butter was the worst culprit. I couldn't understand why the "Natural" peanut butter, though the same price and brand as the other WIC allowed peanut butter was not allowed. Why not? Frustrating as well was having to separate all the items on the checks and since both Ravenna and I qualified. I ended up having five piles for the four checks plus my non-WIC items. I definitely held up the line!

What I love about WIC in Pennsylvania vs. WIC in Utah (in 2007-08) was that WIC in PA actually lets you buy fresh produce and whole grains other than cereal. When I was on WIC in Utah we got zero fresh produce except for carrots during breastfeeding and had cereal as our only choice for a whole grain. The bulk of WIC still is and always been milk, cheese, eggs and cereal but in PA you get those AND a whole grain item like tortillas, rice and bread and a dollar amount to spend on fresh or frozen produce which means I also have the freedom to buy organic produce. Also during the summer you get farmers market vouchers to buy fresh local produce (the very best!).

Right now I am feeling relieved that we now have this resource. It would be awesome not to have to use it but I am just glad that it is there.