USDA will allow Michigan to use Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) funds on a temporary basis to test WIC participants for lead, according to a recent USDA press release. Dr. Kathryn Wilson, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, announced the move on Feb. 10 during her visit to a WIC clinic and elementary school in Flint, Michigan, to share how residents can access USDA programs that aim to mitigate the effects of the city’s water contamination crisis on their health and well-being. The funding could help an estimated 3,800 WIC participants get tested for lead.
Additionally, Wilson announced two measures to increase access to healthy foods, which could potentially mitigate the impact of lead on children: the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for Children program. At least 28 Flint-area schools are eligible to adopt CEP, which ensures universal access to nutritious school meals for all children in the school. In the case of the Summer EBT for Children program, which provides EBT benefits to families with children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals to assist them in purchasing healthy food for their kids during summer months with no school meals, USDA recently expanded eligibility to include areas experiencing extreme circumstances, such as Flint.
These programs join other USDA efforts, detailed in a USDA fact sheet, to help those affected by the lead crisis in Flint. Since September 2015, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has been working with Michigan state agencies including the Michigan Department of Education and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide assistance.
“The programs of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service are there to help because they’re a vital source of nutrition for children, infants, and adults,” said Wilson. “Our goal is simple: to encourage folks to maximize the healthy foods they have available in order to mitigate the effects of lead. We’re working in partnership with other federal agencies to make every possible resource available to help. We encourage people affected by this crisis to visit the local health department to find out what nutrition programs they may be eligible for that could help.”