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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Redwood Empire Food Bank Opens WIC Store at Santa Rosa Headquarters

The Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) is expanding its hunger relief safety net with the addition of a new store at its Santa Rosa headquarters to serve low-income women and children eligible for food assistance through the federal WIC program.

Beginning this fall, pregnant women, new mothers and children under the age of 5 will be able to redeem their WIC vouchers for nutritious food at the REFB where they also will obtain advice and information on other vital hunger relief programs for themselves and other members of their families.

David Goodman, executive director, said the introduction of a WIC Store is a natural fit for the REFB, which is the largest hunger relief agency on the California coast north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“We see this as a unique opportunity to widen our safety net for people in need,” he said.
“Women and children served under the WIC program are also eligible for our own food relief programs,” Goodman said. “By operating our own WIC Store we will be able to provide the nutritious foods these women and children receive through WIC plus make sure they take advantage of other programs such as our special programs for kids and our regular food assistance distributions.”

Goodman said the REFB WIC Store may also offer other products not covered by WIC.
“There are many ways we can help low-income families stretch their budgets, such as offering them discounted diapers and other common household necessities for families with infants and young children,” he said.

The REFB received final State Department of Public Health authorization to operate a WIC program on Monday. Goodman said the REFB plans to have a WIC Store open by September.
The REFB is only one of two non-profits in the State of California authorized to operate WIC stores. The other non-profit is the Yolo County Food Bank.

WIC is the common abbreviation for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. It is a federal health and nutrition program administered by the state.
WIC helps low-income families by providing vouchers for buying healthy supplemental foods, such as milk, juice, cereal, baby formula, eggs, produce, beans and other staples, from WIC-authorized vendors. The program also provides nutrition education and helps families find healthcare and other community services.

About 12,300 women and children receive WIC assistance in Sonoma County. Statewide, the program serves 1.4 million people.

Goodman said the REFB WIC Store will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at the REFB headquarters, 3320 Industrial Drive in Santa Rosa.

WIC customers will be served by a bilingual staff and food bank eligibility workers who can direct mothers and families to other food support services including for kids the Every Child, Every Day – Summer Hunger Initiative, After School Snacks for Kids, Megan Furth Harvest Pantry, and Emergency Food Assistance program as well as other food and produce distributions open to all who are need.

“Low-income mothers and families with very young children need to get as much food into the household as they can,” he said. “Having WIC part of our hunger relief program will help do that.”

REFB staff also will be ready to direct women and others who are not yet WIC qualified how to apply for the WIC assistance.

Goodman said the REFB will welcome WIC recipients into a friendly and easy environment where participants are always treated with dignity and respect.

“Supermarkets do a good job serving WIC customers, but sometimes in a busy grocery store, especially when there is confusion over eligible foods or some other mix-up, a WIC transaction can cause delays at the check out stand,” he said. “This can lead WIC recipients to feel embarrassed or unwelcome.”

“That won’t happen here because at REFB our single reason to exist is to provide hunger relief to people in need,” Goodman said.

Working with 133 partner agencies, the REFB provides food to some 60,000 people a month in Sonoma County. It is also a source of food for pantries in Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

Goodman said the addition of the WIC Store to the REFB operation is part of on-going efforts to increase the REFB’s impact on hunger. The REFB is also developing a line of food products that will provide busy families with ingredients and recipes with which parents can quickly prepare nutritious meals for the dinner table.

“We are pursuing opportunities that are perceived to be out of our reach by many people,” said Goodman. “We’re like the little dog that has no perception of its size and tries to bite the big dogs. We strive to be as big as possible to better serve our community and its people.”

For more information on the REFB or WIC Store, contact Goodman at 707-523-7900.

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