To better serve a growing clientele of women, infants and children within the military community, the Liberty County Health Department plans to build a larger WIC clinic on Fort Stewart. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday.
WIC, which stands for Women, Infants and Children, is a federally funded nutrition education program, Coastal Health District spokeswoman Sally Silbermann said.
"The program’s mission is to provide supplemental food, nutrition education, social services and health referrals to income-eligible pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five, to improve their health outcomes," Silbermann explained.
Pregnant and nursing women and mothers with young children with family incomes "below 185 percent of the national income guidelines" would be eligible for WIC, she said.
"Simply stated, a family of four with an annual income of $40,000 would be eligible to receive WIC benefits," Silbermann said.
WIC provides its participants with select foods vital to the growth and development of pregnant and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grain
cereals and breads, beans and peas, peanut butter, eggs and
low-fat milk for all participants older than 2, the spokeswoman said.
"WIC promotes and supports mothers who breastfeed their infants by making peer counselors available to assist and encourage them through the process," she said." Health-care providers are available to assess each participant for nutrition-related risks such as low iron, low weight gain during pregnancy or other serious medical conditions."
"We have almost as many clients on post as we do off post," said Liberty County Health Department Administrator Deidre Howell. She said the program’s eligibility criteria is not as stringent as for other federal programs, such as food stamps. Therefore, it’s easier to serve the local area’s significant population of expectant and young mothers and their infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, she said. This demographic includes spouses and dependents of active duty military members, Howell said.
Fort Stewart’s WIC Clinic opened about 25 years ago, Silbermann said.
"The clinic was created due to the increase in military families enrolling for the program," she said. "Having a clinic on the military base was not a new concept. The WIC program serves military families worldwide. The Fort Stewart WIC clinic currently serves an estimated 2,000 participants."
"We are very excited about the WIC clinic expansion that will take place at Fort Stewart," Coastal Health District WIC coordinator Tonya Scott said.
"The WIC participation has increased over the years and the previous facility was overdue for replacement due to age and space requirements. The staff and WIC participants were outgrowing the building. We are very fortunate to take advantage of the opportunity for infrastructure funding from USDA and the approval and support of Fort Stewart to build a state-of-the-art clinic in a beautiful environment. Our WIC participants deserve it."
WIC clients connected to Fort Stewart have been directed to come to the WIC clinic at the health department on Highway 84 in Hinesville until the new WIC clinic is completed in mid- to late June, Howell said.
"When we see we’re getting close (to finishing the project), we’ll publicize it so our clients will know when to come back (to the post clinic)," she said.
"Once completed, the new 3,024-square-foot WIC clinic will house office space, a nutrition education room, a breastfeeding room, a laboratory and two waiting rooms," Silbermann said.