WIC Support Group Starts Handing Out Food Boxes

By Forrest Saunders, Reporter

MARION, Iowa - Some in Linn County have banded together to make sure the government shutdown doesn't take food from families in need.

The shutdown will halt the federal program WIC by the end of October. Each month WIC hands out about $55 worth of food vouchers to low income pregnant women and households with children under age five. More than 66,000 Iowans use WIC, several thousand in Linn County alone.

Tuesday night, a handful of concerned women formed the Facebook group "Helping Hands during the WIC Freeze" to help WIC families cope with the program's looming closure.

"We've all been there. We want to make sure their kids are getting what they needed," said one of the group's organizers, Jackie Nebel.

Nebel said all this week they've been collecting the foods WIC vouchers cover. The plan is to hand those items out in food boxes to Linn County WIC families. Those who are still waiting on this month's vouchers were getting supplied first.

"We've gotten packs and packs of PediaSure, about 20 or so cans of formula, dozens of eggs and carrots and apples," said Amanda Boots, who was hosting the group's first giveaway Saturday at her Marion home.

Cedar Rapids mother Kelli Denbeste was one of the first parents to get a food box from Helping Hands. She's been depending on WIC vouchers for a while and isn't sure how she'll make ends meet without them.

"It's insanely important. It's $150 a month in formula and then on top of that you have about $50 worth of other stuff. Without it I wouldn't be able to feed my child," she said.

The food not handed out Saturday is being stockpiled. Helping Hands will start give it to more WIC families next month if the shutdown isn't resolved.

"These women are amazing," said Denbeste. "It's our community pulling together when the government left us."

Organizers with Helping Hands said if the shutdown is resolved soon, and they no longer need their supplies, they'll be donated back to the community- places like HACAP, or local food banks.
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