U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is supporting a bill to correct the “WIC gap” in which young children who receive assistance are left without nutritional assistance before entering school.
In Pennsylvania, children are eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children program until they reach age 5 – then its assumed they enter school where they may qualify for the school breakfast and lunch programs that provide them with food.
Casey said it depends when a child’s birthday is; he or she may be removed from the program well before starting school leaving them without healthy food options.
“One in five American children less than 6 years old lives in a food-insecure household, meaning that he or she has inadequate access to food and there’s no question in my mind that ... data like that indicates that our nation has broken faith with young children,” Casey said on a conference call with reporters Thursday.
The Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act would allow states to extend eligibility for children until they are 6 to close this nutrition gap.
In Pennsylvania approximately 259,000 women, infants and children receive aid monthly, including 16,712 in Allegheny County alone. Research links prenatal and early childhood participation in WIC with improved cognitive development and academic achievement.
Casey did not have numbers readily available as to how many children currently fall into the nutrition gap.