AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 800,000 Texans could lose access to a supplemental nutrition program this week unless Congress can avert a federal government shutdown before Sunday, according to a Texas nonprofit.
Mia Medina, a senior program manager with No Kid Hungry Texas, said that the loss of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) could negatively impact the nutrition of mothers and children in need.
“It not only helps new parents make ends meet, but it’s also an investment in the health and development of infants and young children,” Medina said. “Research shows that WIC can lower premature births among pregnant women, lower the incidence of moderately low and very low birth weights and infants significantly improved children’s diets. And for kids, it can significantly improve their memory for numbers, particularly for children enrolled in WIC in their first year.”
Seven million Americans across the country benefit from the WIC program, according to the Biden administration. Medina notes that Texas has the second-largest number of WIC recipients.
“Depending on how long this government shutdown could last, both SNAP and school meals could be impacted,” Medina said. “The last time that we had a shutdown, which lasted several months…the uncertainty did lead to some districts having to reduce their menus, which can be difficult for kids and for the schools as well.”
Medina added that while the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school meals would likely remain funded through October, the outlook for November is unclear.
In the last 50 years, the federal government has shut down 21 times, according to reporting by The Hill. The last shutdown occurred in 2019 under former President Donald Trump.
“The pending government shutdown could put benefits at risk for millions of Americans who rely on WIC or even things like SNAP and school meals later down the line,” Medina said. “New mothers, infants and young children who rely on this program to buy things like formula milk and fresh produce, we really do need Congress to make a deal to make sure that these families get the support that they need.”
To avert the shutdown, the U.S. Congress must pass a spending bill. However, one proposed bill could remove 524,000 Texas from WIC, according to No Kid Hungry Texas.
For those impacted by the loss of WIC or SNAP benefits, Medina recommends searching 211 Texas for local resources.