The federal government shutdown is now entering the second week. While furloughed workers and the larger economy continue to feel the immediate impact, Nebraskans wait to see when and if the shutdown will impact programs for lower income children.
In particular, the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program is at risk if the shutdown continues. WIC is a federal program that helps lower income moms and kids have access to and information about healthy foods. One report from a program in western Nebraska states that our WIC program could run out of funding if the shutdown lasts two weeks. Nationally, some WIC programs have already been impacted by a shortage of funds.
In 2011, a monthly average of 9,922 infants and 23,557 children under 5 in Nebraska relied on the WIC program for access to healthy foods. These are the infants and children in Nebraska who will be hurt if the shutdown continues.
Healthy eating is important for everyone, but it is particularly important for infants and young children because their brains and bodies are in a critical developmental stage. Hunger in childhood can impact overall health for years to come.
It seems that we have leaders very out of touch with the reality of many American families when we are willing to compromise programs that provide essential nutrition for babies and young kids to score political points that most Americans hardly understand.
We hope that our Congressional leaders will refocus on the things that make our country strong, like taking care of our vulnerable kids.
We need our leaders to start being better adults. Hungry kids can’t afford to wait.