Temporary safeguards have been put in place so the government shutdown won't make it harder for millions of women and young children to get the nutrition they need. WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) provides supplemental nutrition for low-income pregnant women and young children (age five and younger). This is one of the assistance programs most vulnerable to the shutdown, however the Washington Post's blog reported on October 1 that the USDA released an update on Food and Nutrition Service Operations related to the lapse in appropriations. It states:
"WIC State agencies will have the authority to use all other available funding resources to continue to provide WIC benefits to as many participants as possible…"
and goes on to say that the FNS will allocate WIC contingency funds to State agencies with food funding shortfalls.
Food stamps unaffected through October
These steps offer a buffer between the shutdown and the women and children who depend on the government for nutritional assistance, however the FNS anticipates WIC State agencies may still face funding shortfalls. However, the agency also notes that food stamp aid to 47 million low-income Americans will be unaffected through October because that program is funded through stimulus funds that don't run out until 2014.
According to the USDA there are almost nine million women and children who receive assistance from this program with the average monthly benefit at about $45 along with about $135 a month in food stamp benefits. The difference with the WIC money is that it can only be spent on healthy foods found on an approved list.
While the shutdown won't affect the WIC program immediately, the USDA estimates that most states only have funds and authority to continue their programs for "a week or so." Even with contingency funds, States will not be able to fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October.