No More Organics for WIC Clients

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE (AP) – Montana clients of a federal nutrition program aiding women and children no longer will be allowed organic foods at program expense, because those foods cost too much, an administrator said.

“Other states were pretty surprised we allowed organic foods,” said Joan Bowsher, administrator for the Montana Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC. Payment for organic foods will cease next Saturday, Bowsher said.

“Due to increased food costs, our food dollars are very tight right now,” she said. “That’s why organic foods are coming off our approved food list. They’re too expensive.”

She added that “we’re not against organic foods or anything like that. It’s purely a cost thing. We really do have to move to a more cost-effective or efficient way so that we don’t have to go to a waiting list” of people who cannot be helped immediately.

WIC provides food for women and children up to age 5 if they meet income thresholds and other criteria.

In Montana, WIC monthly feeds some 22,000 clients at a cost of about $1 million. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allocates the money.

Bowsher said most states require that clients buy the least expensive type of the item they need. Montana is set to impose the same requirement, effective March 1.

Price surveys indicate egg prices have risen almost 80 percent since October 2006 and 14 percent in the last four months, Bowsher said. The surveys also indicate milk prices increased 14 percent in the past four months, on the heels of steeper increases earlier.

Besides providing food, WIC offers health-care referrals and information about healthful eating.