Why Ed Reporters Should Care about WIC Cuts

Hi, everyone! Welcome to Latino Ed Beat, where we’ll think about how to cover the news through the dual lenses of Latinos and education. I live and breathe this as both an early childhood reporter for Education Week and the mom of a Latino toddler. My husband is from Mexico City, and we live in a predominantly immigrant and second-generation Mexican neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

One of my hopes in writing this blog is to help education reporters think about early childhood and all the factors that affect young children’s learning. To that end, we’ll also sometimes look at policy developments beyond education and see how they influence Latinos and their learning.

So today, let’s talk about WIC. The federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, helps pregnant women, new moms, infants and children under age five stay healthy by providing checks for certain kinds of food: infant formula, foods to help mothers breastfeed successfully, and basic staples like breakfast cereal, eggs, milk, beans, fruits and vegetables.

WIC is a huge support for healthy eating in the Latino community: A fact sheet from the National Council of La Raza says that in 2008, more than 60 percent of all Latino children under age five lived in families using WIC. And research has shown that children with access to WIC were 24 percent more likely to be on-track developmentally than children in eligible families not using the program.

In mid-June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would cut WIC funding by 13 percent. While there’s been local reporting  describing the possible impact of cuts on families, education writers also could explore the effects of the proposed cuts by asking day care providers and preschool teachers for their take, and talking to researchers about the impact of poor nutrition on cognitive development.

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