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WIC program expands food choices
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Recipients of a state nutrition program will now have more options when they head to the grocery store.

The Georgia Department of Community Health recently announced changes to its Women, Infants and Children Program. The program provides recipients with vouchers that they can redeem at participating stores for specific food items on a pre-approved list.

“The new food packages provide more participant choice and a wider variety of foods than the previous food packages,” said Miriam Bell, deputy director of public health programs and services. “Foods such as tortillas, brown rice, soy-based beverages and a wide choice of fruits and vegetables will provide state agencies increased flexibility in prescribing culturally appropriate food packages.”

The change will affect thousands of Hall County residents.

“The number of recipients in Hall County in August was 8,459,” said Dave Palmer, District 2 Public Health information coordinator. “This number may fluctuate slightly from month to month as new people enter the program and others go out of the program; however, it is pretty consistent from month to month.”

The WIC Program, which is administered locally through the Hall County Health Department, is available for women and children in low income families who “are at risk for nutritional deficiencies.” According to program officials, participant categories include women who are pregnant, postpartum or breast-feeding and children younger than 5.

Among other things, the changes to the WIC food choices include adding fruits and vegetables and increasing the number of cereals that are at least 50 percent whole grain.

“Foods available to WIC participants will be higher in fiber and lower in fat,” Bell said.

About 8 million participants benefit from the WIC program nationwide.