COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is receiving a $100,000 federal grant aimed at keeping more poor preschoolers enrolled in a program that provides healthy foods and nutritional advice.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announces that South Carolina is among six recipients splitting $2 million. The others are Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
South Carolina sought the money to buy a mobile clinic that will travel five of the state’s poorest counties: Allendale, Bamberg, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper.
USDA Undersecretary Kevin Concannon told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the grants are intended to help improve retention rates of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Children are eligible up to age 5, but many parents don’t re-enroll their children beyond their first birthday. Reasons range from a lack of transportation to a perception the program is no longer necessary after children begin eating solid food, he said.
More than 107,000 women, infants and preschoolers in South Carolina received the aid in August, including about 49,000 children ages 1 to 5, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
Concannon said the number of preschoolers enrolled should be higher.
Purchases are limited to certain foods, including infant formula, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Nationwide, about half of the program’s participants also receive food stamp benefits.
“WIC is much more targeted,” Concannon said. “The prescribed foods are foods typically missing in the diets of low-income households.”
In South Carolina, infants’ families receive on average about $147 monthly for food, though the amounts vary depending on need. The monthly average drops to $46 for pregnant women and $42 for preschoolers between 1 and 5. Overall, the program’s participants bought $77 million worth of food in the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to the state’s public health agency.