Sequester could cut state's nutrition program for kids

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- The looming sequestration and the resulting cuts will leave tens of thousands of children in Washington state at risk of losing their link to nutrition.

Millions of dollars that pay for the Women, Infants, and Children program -- or WIC -- will be lost. The program provides vouchers for milk, cereal, peanut butter, infant formula and fresh produce.

Kyra Salazar and her children, Sophia and Elija stand to lose if the cuts take effect. They are just three of the more than 26,000 Pierce County residents who receive services from the federal nutritional program.

If the sequester is not avoided, Washington state could lose $7.5 million in WIC funding. And tens of thousands of children in the state could lose their benefits since the program is considered discretionary.

"I don't think it's discretionary; I think we need to be there to help as many as we can," said Tiffany Eriksen, who supervises five clinics in Pierce County.

Eriksen says without WIC, more children may face serious health repercussions.

"Potentially it could lead to chronic childhood anemia," she said.

Salazar says she's irked by the possibility that this vital link to her children's health could disappear.

"They obviously don't have our point of view," she said. "They need to step down and look at real people, because it's needed."

Salazar says the program gives more than just food vouchers. WIC is where she learned that juice is full of sugar and calories -- a tool that's helping her keep Sophia's weight in check.

"It's not about let's get you in and let's get you out. It's knowledge, power," she said.

The total WIC benefit equals about $50 per client per month.