Politics

Louisville health officials are closing three of the city’s six clinics from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program For Women, Infants And Children, or WIC.

WIC is a federal program that helps provide healthy food, formula and nutrition education to families that are up to 185 percent of the poverty level.

But fewer Jefferson County residents are using the program, which means the area is going to get considerably less federal money for it, city health officials said.

As a result, Louisville Metro Health and Wellness officials said the program is facing a $300,000 shortfall this fiscal year ending in June and a shortfall of at least $800,000 next year.

Leanne Pearson, the WIC Nutrition Manager with Metro Health and Wellness, said that’s why the department is closing three of its smallest clinics in the South Jefferson, Middletown and the Hazelwood areas.

Pearson said participation has dropped to about 13,000 in Louisville.

“At one point we had a high of 16,000—so there is a decline,” she said.

Officials said that this doesn’t mean there is less need in the area. While WIC participation went down in the area, participation in a federal food stamp program known as SNAP went up. Pearson said she believes this is because WIC participants have to attend four appointments at their nearest clinic, among other things.

“Whereas with SNAP, it’s a much easier way to enroll, you don’t have to come four times a year,” she said. “So, for some individuals that’s a choice that they make.”

The food stamp program also allows families to buy any food products they want, whereas WIC is used for purchasing healthful foods such as fresh produce, milk and eggs.

State and local health officials are working on finding out a way to get higher WIC participation numbers. Pearson said one program would make the educational component of the program accessible online, so people don’t have to drive over to a local clinic four times a year.

City health officials are also reaching out to new mothers through Medicaid and partnerships with local hospitals.

The three WIC clinics that officials are shuttering will be closed by June 30.