Shameless: I’m Waving My WIC Flag

There was a recent string of comments on a Facebook group that I belong to. It’s an all women group, and is usually hilarious. I don’t know most of the women, but I scroll by once in a while to read and commiserate or laugh. It’s like any room full of women. Some I relate to, some are hysterical, some are crazy. You can’t be in a room full of women and like (or be like) all of them. I don’t usually post or comment, but on one particular day, I did. And, unfortunately, the string was taken down. I can’t call up the original post, the offending comments, and the responses from some other women.

A nerve was struck when I read a comment in a string about a woman who was not breastfeeding and was on WIC. One person’s comment about this particular woman’s perceived “situation”, and the fact that she was on WIC for formula instead of breastfeeding, sent more than a few women into a tizzy, myself included.

Let me start by saying, my children are 23 and 12. It’s been a long time since I was pregnant, nursed a baby, or had a kid under 5. I’m a pro-breastfeeding even in public, don’t you dare say a word to me about feeding my baby or I’ll throat punch you before you complete your sentence, kind of mom. I stick up for other moms who do, I think it’s beautiful and natural and believe any opposition should be dismissed as crazy. I think our society needs to do a better job promoting, encouraging, and nurturing breastfeeding because I think it makes for healthy babies, healthy moms, and women who understand and care for their own bodies and health better. We can do a lot better in that space….but, I digress. The post I mentioned prompted a reply from me. But it was deleted. The whole string was. I wished I saved it because it was crisp and snarky. 

Here is my long reaction to the woman opposed to her tax-dollars being spent on formula for a woman who chose not to breastfeed. It is also my public thank you to that woman for giving me the charge to remember these details. It is also my public thank you to the people who work at, advocate for and support the Massachusetts Women, Infants & Children Program…

Dear Uninformed,
Shut the fuck up. WIC is a nutritional program you donkey. Before you spout off publicly and negatively about WIC, please do some research. Read. WIC is, in my opinion, one of the most successful public health programs out there. You don’t need to be on public assistance to be eligible for WIC. You can be a working person and be eligible. People who actually plan pregnancies can get WIC, too…while pregnant!

WIC benefits (i.e. FOOD) are also available to families, not just poor mothers, and it directly impacts the health of our children. In addition, both pregnant and breastfeeding moms can be eligible for WIC. How can you be opposed to nutrition and healthy food for families in your own community? And, if you are, are you also opposed to other public health programs?

I had an unplanned pregnancy at the age of 15. I was on WIC. I was on WIC while I was pregnant, going to high school, and working. I was on WIC for the entire 14 months that I was breastfeeding her, still in high school and working. I was on WIC until she was 5. I worked. Two jobs, in fact, and a third that was per-diem.

I was on old school, paper check tearing-separate your groceries-don’t get an ounce over a pound of cheese, WIC. I was on circa 1993-JuicyJuice in a can that I didn’t have an opener for, WIC. I was on vintage Teddy Peanut Butter-original Cheerios-dried beans in a bag that I didn’t know how to cook, WIC.

I was poor, single, able-bodied, working and by all definitions of the state “at-risk.” I was ashamed to use the WIC checks at the grocery store, so I went really late at night. I got hives if someone got in line behind me. I didn’t have a car, so I had to make multiple dreaded trips so that I could carry a gallon of milk, which on some nights felt heavier than my toddler. I could grocery shop for the two of us on $16 a week with the WIC supplement. It was all there was some weeks. I had to walk about three miles pushing the stroller to attend the WIC counseling meetings and get the paper coupon checks.

As a result, I learned that a healthy mom makes health milk. I learned that my daughter’s belly wasn’t bigger than her fist. I learned that milk, cheese, peanut butter, eggs and legumes contained protein, so the inability to afford meat didn’t mean she wasn’t getting any. I learned how to rinse and cook dried beans, which I’d never seen before. I learned the difference between “100% Juice” and “Made with 100% Juice.” I laughed watching my daughter pick Cheerios and Kix up off the table with her tongue. I still buy bags of beans. I will never, ever buy frozen concentrated juice in a can. Ever.

WIC is a great program, offering both food and education. I didn’t ever really reflect on what I learned from the WIC help. I never thanked any one of the women I met with. I feel guilty that I can’t call up the face of a single person I ever met with. Most likely because my own head was hung in shame during the meetings. But, all pride aside, I really needed it and I’m really grateful it was an option for me and my daughter.

So, shut about about your fucking tax dollars.

Love,

The almost 40 year old, six-figure earning, mother of a healthy and well fed 23-year-old girl who spent her early years dipping bananas in WIC funded Cheerios washed down with a sippy-cup filled with 100% juice…also provided by WIC.

PS in case you’re wondering what I’ve done to make up for the Massachusetts tax dollars spent helping to feed us during those years, I can assure you that the help I accepted has not been forgotten and was not accepted lightly. I’ve filled many a food pantry shelf. I’ve Walked for Hunger. I’ve organized fundraising and food drive projects and I’ve involved my children. I’ve volunteered and I’ve donated. A lot.

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