published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Bradley, McMinn health departments propose upgrades

By Paul Leach, Correspondent

WIC FACTS

* WIC is not an entitlement program. Congress determines the amount of grant funding for operations each year.

* The Food and Nutrition Service provides funding to state health agencies.

* WIC is available in all 50 states, 34 Indian tribal organizations, and other territories.

* Ninety state agencies administer the WIC program through 2,200 local agencies and 9,000 clinic sites.

* WIC served 9.3 million people (mostly children) in 2009.

* For more information, go to http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic

Source: USDA

ATHENS, Tenn. -- The health departments of McMinn and Bradley counties will launch federally funded renovation projects this spring.

Last October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children awarded the McMinn and Bradley agencies $300,000 and $57,000, respectively.

"We are very grateful for the funding provided to our Women, Infants and Children programs," said Beth Delaney, spokeswoman for the Southeast Tennessee Regional Health Office, which oversees county health programs in the region.

The money is designated for the improvement of WIC client services, which provide free food and nutrition education for qualifying at-risk mothers and children up to five years of age.

With the money, the McMinn County Health Department will build a 1,400-square-foot addition, including two new clinic rooms, Delaney said. She said the project goes to the contract bidding process next and workers likely will break ground in April or May. Construction may be done by late summer.

Delaney has said the addition will help with the county's growing WIC client base. The McMinn County Health Department served about 1,300 women, infants and children last year, records show.

County Health Director Jeannie Bentley said it is too early to tell how much the county's WIC clientele base might increase this year.

Delaney said the Bradley County office renovation is a covered side entranceway, and construction bidding already is in progress. The Bradley project is expected to begin this spring and reach completion by late summer, she said.

The McMinn and Bradley health department clinics were two of 20 across Tennessee that shared a total award of $6.52 million from the USDA's WIC program, according to a news release. Individual grant amounts were based on each county's WIC client population.

The program, administered by the state Department of Health, served more than 326,000 women and children in Tennessee last year.

House Republicans have proposed a $747 million cut to WIC programs, according to The Associated Press. The program received $7.252 billion in 2010, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website states.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. E-mail him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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