The U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied Michigan's request to expand WIC benefits and services to children 5-10 years old based on the Flint water crisis.
According to a letter from Tim English, regional administrator for the USDA, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is "committed to assisting the State of Michigan in addressing the water crisis in Flint, particularly as it impacts children."
The letter said that a statute is the reason why they cannot expand the WIC benefits to children above 5 years old.
"FNS is dedicated to supporting the nutrition of Flint's older children through other existing federal programs," the letter said. Those programs include the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Child and Adult Food care program.
Gov. Rick Snyder released this statement in response to the denial:
"I have strongly and continually stated that it is essential for all levels of government to work together to help Flint recover from this crisis, as it was all levels of government that failed Flint. While I understand WIC funding does not normally cover children over the age of 5, the improved health and developmental growth that will come from better nutrition for these kids necessitates a waiver of this rule.
"I strongly urge the federal government to reconsider this request and provide additional support for children ages 5 to 10. We must draw on all resources possible and work cooperatively to meet the needs of the residents of Flint, both immediate and long-term."
— Governor Rick Snyder (@onetoughnerd) January 30, 2016
The USDA released this statement:
USDA has been working with federal, state and local partners to provide the families and children of Flint with options to access nutritious foods and clean water through USDA’s nutrition programs, including school breakfast and lunch and support for child daycare and after school care programs. Since October, USDA has supported the state of Michigan with the following assistance:
USDA has assured Michigan officials that funding is available to support families with eligible children up to five years of age who seek WIC services. Nov 3, 2015
The local WIC agency has responded to the crisis by making ready-to-feed infant formula, which does not need to be mixed with water, available to WIC participants. WIC participants can also swap powdered formula for ready-to-feed formula as needed. Sept 5, 2015
USDA has provided flexibility for Flint area schools by waiving the National School Lunch Program requirement to make potable water available to students during the lunch service for the remainder of the school year. However, the district is offering bottled water to students. Oct. 16, 2015
USDA approved the Michigan Department of Education’s request for additional funds for fresh fruit and vegetables. These funds will be used to help affected schools purchase foods high in vitamin C. Jan. 25, 2016
The local health department is providing WIC participants with free water filters. Oct 5, 2015
WIC participants are being referred to the local health department for lead screenings and provided nutrition education on mitigating lead absorption through dietary changes. Sept 5, 2015
Educating the public that WIC foods currently provide good sources of calcium, iron and Vitamin C. The WIC cash value voucher can be used to purchase vitamin C and calcium-rich fruits and vegetables. Sept 5, 2015