Monday, June 07, 2004

I Was A Welfare Queen

According to the New York Times, new supermarkets aimed at WIC recipients are cropping up.

Some interesting facts from the article... The program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or W.I.C., helps feed 7.7 million people each month by providing vouchers for infant formula, juice, eggs, milk, cheese, cereal and dried beans. About 47 percent of all babies born in the United States each year participate in the program.

What the article didn't say... The vast number of graduate students who have families while still in school are on WIC. Graduate students living on a $12,000 stipend easily qualify for the program, and no one gives you a hard time. No one says, "you should get a real job, Egghead, and stop leaching off the government." Although perhaps they should.

So, like so many grad school families, we were on W.I.C. for a year. As I said, qualifying for the program was easy. The paperwork was relatively painless. I was given a stack of vouchers based on my response to question: breast feed or bottle. I wisely said both.

The vouchers are made out for very specific items. You can't blow it all on Twinkies. There were vouchers for cheese (Monteray Jack or cheddar), whole milk, frozen juice (orange, apple, or grape), and formula. Formula was the real prize. Baby guzzles about $100 of formula a month.

The vouchers have very specific dates on them. They have to be used up by a certain week or they become void.

Now for the weird part. You can't redeem your voucher for formula and walk out of the supermarket. You had to buy everything, the cheese and the juice and the milk, whether you wanted it or not. Most annoyingly, they required you to purchase vast quantities of milk. Like two or three gallons per week. Far more than an average person could consume. We had to give away some of the milk to neighbors so it wouldn't go bad.

Now for the annoying part. You had to cart all that milk home. Not every supermarket accepts WIC vouchers. We had to walk to a far off supermarket over on Broadway. All that milk doesn't fit in the back of babystroller, so you had to have someone help you get it all home. I suppose if you had car it wouldn't be such a big deal. But I'll let you in on a secret. A lot of poor people don't have cars.

Surely, there was some deal with the milk farmers over this one. Some Vermont Senator got a little pork back home in exchange for my backache.

That was the abbreviated story of us on WIC. I could tell you how humiliating it was to get the voucher signed by the store manager. Or long waits at the WIC office to get recertified. Or the required parenting classes. Nah. We're just amazed that experience was only four years ago. We've come so far since then.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

< ? Redhead Blogs # >

< ? Blogging Mommies # >