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Increased WIC income guidelines met with expanded produce options

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Increased income eligibility for the federal Women, Infants and Children supplemental feeding program has been met locally with increased access to fresh vegetables and herbs.

Thanks to a Connecticut seed company, the North Country Family Health Center can distribute 2,500 packets of seeds to needy families. As they learn to grow, harvest and then consume their produce and herbs, WIC nutrition educators will be available to help clients make healthier food choices.

Health center Marketing Director Elaine P. Garvey said the federal government’s decision to increase income eligibility for WIC, effective today, will make more families eligible for the seeds program.

“It was a very innovative idea,” Mrs. Garvey said.

Rachael V. Gianfagna, a registered dietitian and the health center’s 4-county WIC nutritionist, said all WIC clients are offered seeds when they come in for WIC appointments.

“It’s been a fun project,” she said. “We’ve had a really good response from our clients. We’ve been encouraging them to share their progress with us through Facebook.”

The program comes at the perfect time, Mrs. Garvey said, because increased gross annual income guidelines mean more people will receive WIC services.

A family of four, for example, with a gross annual income up to $44,123 qualifies for the program now. According to an agency news release, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, infants and children up to age 5 may be eligible to receive WIC vouchers.

Those vouchers are valued at more than $100 per month per person. Clients may redeem them at area stores for fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, cereal, juice and peanut butter. Baby food, baby cereal and infant formula also are available for infants.

The North Country Family Health Center provides WIC services to 17,000 people throughout the north country.

“(The increase) reminds people WIC guidelines are higher than they think,” Mrs. Garvey said. “Many working families and military families qualify. I think it’s important to remind people of that once a year.”

Military families also do not count their basic housing allowance when determining eligibility.

For more information, or to check eligibility, call the nearest WIC office at 782-9222 for Jefferson County; 376-6427 for Lewis County; 386-8128 for St. Lawrence County; or (518) 483-4262 for Franklin County.

Information also is available on the center’s website, www.childrens-clinic.org.

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