Food Banks and Nonprofits Step Up as WIC Offices Temporarily Close

Local nonprofits and food banks are stepping up to assist women affected by the temporary closing of the offices of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program.

Rebecca Sanin, president and CEO of the Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, said Long Island offices of the federal program will be closed next week for an upgrade to a debit card-based system.

Other available resources

The Council said that 20,000 Long Islanders may be affected by the closure, and has been bringing WIC directors, Long Island Federally Qualified Health Centers, Long Island Cares, Island Harvest and Child Care Councils of Nassau and Suffolk together to  collaborate to alleviate gaps in service delivery during the closures.

WIC is a federally funded nutritional security program that offers access to healthy foods, nutritional counseling and breastfeeding support for pregnant and nursing mothers, and children aged 0-5.  It also provides for health screenings and breast-feeding support.

Officials say about 20,000 Long Islanders receive WIC benefits, and the last three-month payment at the end of December covers them until the beginning of April.

Because of the closure, new mothers seeking benefits will be unable to apply during the weeklong closure, and elected officials and nonprofit leaders gathered Thursday to inform WIC recipients of other resources available.

  “Even as a college-educated serviceman, ready to sacrifice my life for my country, my family was in poverty and relied on WIC,”  said DuWayne Gregory, presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature.
“We have a moral, ethical and human responsibility to ensure that our youngest, most vulnerable neighbors have their basic needs met,” Sanin said.
Though the  closure will make accessing help temporarily more difficult, experts support the shift to cards will improve services for users in the future.

Paule Pachter, CEO of Long Island Cares, said that many food pantries don’t have all items, such as formula or diapers, that mothers might need but that they are available at its offices in Huntington Station, Lindenhurst and Freeport

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