STANTON — The federal government may be partially shut down, but the Michigan Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program is open for business … for now.
Local health department officials say they’ve been told there was a flood of people at local grocery stores Tuesday, stocking up on baby supplies after hearing about possible effects of the government shutdown.
“WIC varies from state to state, but at this point in time, Michigan WIC is operating normally,” said Leslie Kinnee, public information officer for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department, which covers Clinton, Gratiot and Montcalm counties. “We would like to reassure our clients that Michigan WIC has not been cut and is still operating.”
WIC is a health and nutrition program federally funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. The program offers multiple services, including food for women, infants and children; nutrition education and counseling; health care referrals; and breastfeeding promotion and support.
Approximately 4,100 women, infants and children are currently served by WIC in Clinton, Gratiot and Montcalm counties, according to Bonnie Havlicek, the community health and education division director for the Mid-Michigan District Health Department. About 50 percent of all babies born in those three counties participate in the WIC program.
“The WIC program is a real need in this county,” Havlicek said. “People are really counting on us and we know that.
“How long can we go without a budget? I can’t answer that question, but I’m confident the state will keep us updated,” she said. “I just want people to know that they don’t need to panic.”
Stan Bien, the director of the Michigan WIC program, did not return messages seeking comment for this story about how long the Michigan WIC program can stay open for business.
Havlicek did not sound concerned about the situation Wednesday.
“We work very closely with the Michigan WIC program and they communicate with us regularly,” she said. “The rumors that are going on now are not true. There are a lot of people who are being affected and, needless to say, are very concerned with the misinformation.
“We want to make sure that our families know that we are open for business as usual,” she said. “In Michigan, WIC is open for business and will continue for now until we are advised differently.”
Local baby pantries also offer some of the same services provided by WIC, including:
• Alpha Family Center Baby Pantry, 117 E. Montcalm St., Greenville (616) 225-2265
• Trinity Evangelical Free Church Baby Pantry, 400 N. Lincoln St., Stanton (989) 831-4657
• Ferris Church of Christ East Montcalm Baby Pantry, 3443 N. Crystal Road, Vestaburg (989) 831-8817.