Thousands of African American infants, children, pregnant teens and teenage moms residing in Los Angeles County from families with modest incomes are becoming eligible for millions of dollars worth of food checks from WIC. The same is true for infants throughout the state.

These infants and youth were never before eligible for food checks and other WIC benefits because their parents’ incomes were too high. The checks will enable parents to purchase a wide variety of nutritious foods at area markets.

South Los Angeles Health Projects, which manages 11 WIC centers, is appealing to the entire community to share this information with family and friends, and encouraging parents to apply for WIC just in case their children are eligible.

Who are the eligible children? They are infants and youth who have been subscribers of Healthy Families, a California program of low-cost medical, dental and vision insurance.

Parents this spring are receiving letters announcing that their Healthy Families’ children, who range from infants to 19-year-olds, are being transitioned to Medi-Cal. This is the result of AB 1494, a bill signed last year by Gov. Jerry Brown.

But parents might not realize that as a consequence, many of these former Healthy Families children–though not all–will qualify for WIC. The children eligible for WIC are infants, children up to age 5, and pregnant teens and new moms up to age 19.

WIC is the name commonly used for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a federal program that has been providing participants monthly checks for nutritious foods and a wide array of health education benefits since the mid-’70s.

The selection of foods is based upon the children’s needs, as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and parents’ preferences.

Heidi Kent, executive director of South Los Angeles Health Projects, said she expects that many Healthy Families participants newly transitioned to Medi-Cal will soon be enrolled in WIC. “We encourage all parents who think they or their children might be eligible for WIC to find out more.

“We are so pleased that more residents will be able to use WIC food checks to buy themselves and their children delicious, healthy foods that they might not otherwise be able to afford,” Kent said.

Pregnant women and parents of WIC participants are also offered no-cost nutrition counseling; breast-feeding education and support; group education in parenting skills, health and well-being, and referrals to community services.

“Any infants, children up to age 5, and many pregnant teens and new teenage moms–as long as they have been enrolled in Healthy Families and are now transitioning to Medi-Cal–will automatically be eligible for WIC,” Kent said. “It’s easy to apply for WIC over the phone or by walking into a local WIC center. This is true both in South Los Angeles and in the rest of L.A. County.”

South L.A. Health Projects’ WIC centers are located in Bell Gardens, Compton, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Paramount, South Gate and four communities within the city of Los Angeles.

WIC participants can visit any WIC center that is convenient, regardless of where they live.

The public can phone (310) 661-3080 to learn more about WIC eligibility and the locations of all WIC centers in Los Angeles County and beyond.