Part of the reason I created this blog was to compile info about military resources, and share them with other spouses. I've decided every Thursday will feature a new resource. Previously I have written about ITT/Travel, The USO, how to give a Military haircut and the PEERS free childcare in Jacksonville. Today's spotlight in on the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) Program. This is a government program, not just a military resource, so it can be found in every state, even if you are nowhere near a military base. WIC encourages "Healthy Habits and Healthy Families" by providing women who are pregnant, nursing, and/or have children under the age of 5 with vouchers for specific healthy foods. Qualification for the vouchers is intended for low-income families. (Hey, that's half the military!) I don't know the exact salary cut-offs, but as a Sergeant's wife with only 1 child, I was just above the maximum salary. However, once I became pregnant with the 2nd child we did qualify, and have stayed on the program even after he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.
You have to go to a WIC office for a health screening, and to present paperwork showing income (LES) and proof of residency. Ours is located on Terrawa Terrace: 910-450-0081. After that, you only have to go back a few times each year, and they will screen you or your children and give you 3 months of vouchers. The visits are annoying, and take 2-3 hours each time (mostly sitting in a waiting room with other exhausted parents and cranky children) but the money saved with the vouchers is pretty significant. You can use the vouchers at the Commissary or most grocery stores, but you have to get the correct brands, sizes, and number of items on the list.
A pregnant woman gets $10 of fresh produce, 5 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 3 bottles of juice, 1 loaf of bread, 1 jar of peanut butter, and 4 cans of beans for free each month. A nursing mother gets similar quantities, except even more milk, and 30 oz of canned fish for herself, as well as TONS of baby food (cereal, veggies, fruit, and meats) once the baby is 6 months old. They will cover some formula and baby food for bottle-fed infants, but they really encourage breastfeeding. After the child turns 1, they qualify for $6 of fresh produce, 3 1/2 gallons of milk, 1 pound of cheese, 1 dozen eggs, 2 boxes of cereal, 2 jugs of juice, 2 loaves of bread, and 1 jar of peanut butter every month. So a woman who is pregnant or nursing and has another young child will easily save $200 a month in groceries. Sure, it's a little frustrating to find all the correct items in the store and ring them up separately from your other groceries, but I see it as my contribution to my family, since I don't have any other source of income right now. If you haven't applied, it is worth a phone call to see if you are eligible!