Congressman: Budget cuts could hurt low-income children
KINGSTON - About 750,000 low-income women and children nationwide could be turned away from an effective nutrition program as a result of budget cuts, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright said Friday.
Mr. Cartwright said the sequester could threaten participation in Women, Infants, Children, a federally funded program that provides nutrition education, access to healthy foods, breast-feeding support, health screenings and referrals to service agencies for pregnant and breast-feeding women, infants and children under 5.
Mr. Cartwright, D-17, Moosic, and state Rep. Phyllis Mundy, D-120, Kingston, toured the Kingston WIC Center Friday with officials from Maternal and Family Health Services.
"WIC funding federally has been falling over the last few years and to maintain services at current levels, we have to fairly dramatically increase WIC funding," he said. "I will be a loud advocate for that. It doesn't take a whole lot of vision to see the benefits WIC brings."
Maternal and Family Health Services offers WIC in 16 Pennsylvania counties, serving more than 57,000 people each month with nutrition education and access to healthy foods. The organization provides nutrition and health care services annually to more than 125,000 clients in 16 counties, including Luzerne, Lackawanna, Wayne and Susquehanna counties.
The WIC Center in Kingston serves about 2,400 clients a month, said Bette Saxton, the group's president and CEO. If funding cuts continue, Ms. Saxton said there may be a need for waiting lists.
"We are at the breaking point with finances," Ms. Saxton said.
President Barack Obama requested $7.14 billion for WIC in his 2014 budget proposal to serve more than 9 million low-income mothers and young children throughout the country. That funding includes healthy food, nutrition education and programs at WIC centers. A House Appropriations Committee amended a bill to fund WIC at $6.6 billion.