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.
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.
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