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Shutdown Cuts WIC Funding, Facebook Group Aims to Help

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - With the government shutdown, some parents aren't sure how they are going to feed their families. That's because they use WIC.

WIC is a nutrition program that gives low income pregnant and new moms an average of $55 in food vouchers a month. With it they can buy health food and expensive baby formula.

But the government shutdown means WIC has lost its funding and until things are back to normal the about 66,000 Iowans who use the program won't be getting those vouchers.

October 1st was a bad day for new mother Alida Ogren-Gunderson. First the federal shutdown took her job at AmeriCorps through furloughs.

"They said close up shop and we'll call you to come back," said Ogren-Gunderson.

Then, she found out it's also taking her WIC food assistance checks.

"It forces us to prioritize in a way that is not a lot of fun," she said.

Ogren-Gunderson said until the government starts back up she's going to be pinching every penny to keep feeding her 18-month-old daughter. Not a good feeling.

"A little desperate, maybe would be a good way to describe it," she said.

That's where some Linn County residents and former WIC users come in. Tuesday night a few of them were talking about the shutdown on Facebook. They knew they needed to do something.

"Really, just to help mothers and parents and families in the community that are affected by this," said Nicole Wilson, of Cedar Rapids.

Wilson said she and some others got the ball rolling by starting up a Facebook group; "Helping Hands during the WIC Freeze". The goal is to use it to collect donations that'll be handed over to current Linn County WIC users.

The group is looking for things WIC checks would cover, healthy foods, baby foods, and one of the biggest, specialty formulas.

"I have people who need the Alimentum, who need soy, who need PediaSure. Things that cost way more than just running out and getting a generic formula," said Amanda Boots, another one of the group's organizers.

So far, the response has been huge. In about 24 hours, the group gained more than 200 members, and donations started pouring in.

"It's just amazing, the outpouring of support from complete strangers for complete strangers, during this time," said Wilson.

The group plans to pack all their items up and give them out in specialized food boxes in coming days. The first will be Saturday. People who want one are asked to bring their WIC folders as proof they're enrolled in the program.

To setup a pickup time, or ask a question, contact one of the group's admins, through Facebook. Here's the link:

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