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WIC cuts to affect food banks

WIC cuts to affect food banks

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Cuts to a federal program that provides food for low-income women, infants and children could mean additional stress for other programs that provide food for those in need.

A handful of cuts - all designed to help relieve federal budget shortfalls - to the WIC program were outlined last week by state officials, but a larger problem exists. And that problem could mean trouble for food charities.

In Montana, the WIC program cut back milk in its food packages, but if a funding bill working its way through Congress doesn't up the ante on the program's appropriation, some currently eligible clients may be cut from the program.

Officials at the Montana Food Bank Network, which provides food to other food charities around the state, estimates that more than 1,200 of WIC's 20,000 Montana clients might not qualify for the program.

"Cutting people receiving benefits from WIC means that hundreds of mothers and children likely will need to turn to the Montana Food Bank Network for help, and our food pantries are already struggling to meet demands for food assistance due to increasingly scarce food supplies," said Peggy Grimes, director of the network.

What happened to the WIC program is that President Bush's proposed funding level - $5.38 billion - no longer meets the needs of the WIC program nationally because of increased food prices. Both houses of Congress are considering funding levels higher than the president's, but the numbers currently on the table still won't cover the shortfall.

"This is not a time to reduce funding for food for our at-risk children," said Moe Wosepka, executive director of the Montana Catholic Conference.

The conference, the food bank network and the Montana Hunger Coalition are all urging Congress to up the funding level to $5.96 billion, a figure that will allow the program to continue serving all those currently eligible.

Reporter Michael Moore can be reached at 523-5252 or by e-mail at mmoore@missoulian.com

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