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Letters: Illinois has made progress in boosting participation in WIC nutrition program

The editorial “Instead of cutting nutrition benefits for poor mothers and their kids, House GOP should seek reform” (Nov. 27) is poignant but misrepresents the progress that’s been made in Illinois to boost participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
The editorial rightly notes that Illinois could do a better job of connecting eligible women, infants and young children with crucial nutrition provided through WIC, a point that the Illinois Department of Human Services and advocates such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Illinois Hunger Coalition have been working to change. Our state has made important strides in making WIC more accessible and customer-friendly in recent years. Since this time last year, enrollment has increased by about 9,000 women, infants and children, or 5.6%.
Illinois has conducted research to explore the causes and solutions to WIC underutilization. We are piloting the use of WIC navigators to encourage program referrals and participation, bringing mobile grocery into communities to make shopping more convenient, and studying how mobile enrollment can bring WIC services to locations that eligible families already frequent. Illinois has secured U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for the use of paraprofessionals to address local agency staffing challenges and is working to cross-promote programs between WIC and Head Start families.
While we are beginning to see the fruits of these efforts, we know we still have a long way to go. Some of the changes needed are at the federal level — for example, extending certification periods for children and updating the WIC food package to better meet families’ nutritional needs. Most urgently, we need to ensure that WIC is fully funded so that the resources are there to serve families when they apply.
We agree that cutting WIC benefits — a move that the U.S. House is proposing — would be catastrophic. Doing so would put more than 700,000 eligible participants, including an estimated 17,400 in Illinois, at risk of losing this critical source of nutrition. For the first time since the 1990s, waitlists would have to be instituted. And in states like Illinois that are working hard to increase enrollment, this would be a huge step backward.
Our organizations will continue to advocate for needed changes at the federal and state level to safeguard the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of infants, children and mothers.
— Sophie Milam, Greater Chicago Food Depository; Ami Novoryta, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago; and Diane Doherty, Illinois Hunger Coalition
Faith renewed by stories
I was delighted to read two uplifting news stories in Tuesday’s Tribune. The first article (“Eisenhower band director honored”) celebrates Justin Antos, band director at Eisenhower High School and winner of the prestigious national Foster Project Community Development award that will result in new musical instruments for his students. With more than 80% of Eisenhower students from low-income families, these new instruments will undoubtedly be put to good use. The picture of a very humble Anton (which looks like selfie) with band members in the background made me smile.
The second article (“Donation to help fight gun violence”) reports that the newly active Sue Ling Gin Foundation is giving $21 million to Chicago CRED, an organization that offers interventions (e.g., therapy, life coaching, education and job training) to at-risk youths with the goal of reducing gun violence. A recent study found a 73% reduction in violence-related arrests for CRED participants who completed the two-year program, thus demonstrating this is a worthy cause.
Yes, the fact that it was GivingTuesday wasn’t lost on me. These two stories definitely reaffirm my faith in humanity. Thank you!
— Belle Lerner, Wilmette
Characterization of protests
Richard Vlach’s letter (“Democrats normalize, too,” Nov. 28) counters Clarence Page’s column about Republican attempts to “normalize” the Jan. 6 insurrection with what seems to be a complaint about Democrats calling it “civil unrest” when “parts of the country were being burned and looted during riots.” I assume that he is referring to the protests over George Floyd’s murder. I wonder what term he would prefer.
While not suggesting that Vlach believes it, I take exception to the fiction that some on the right promote: that the protests over Floyd’s murder were an unjustified, sea-to-shining-sea Black Lives Matter riot with a dash of antifa for flavor. The Nonviolent Action Lab and Crowd Counting Consortium estimate that, by the end of June 2020, 96.3% of 7,305 demonstrations involved no injuries and no property damage. The protest that I attended was in that overwhelming majority.
In these days of social media-organized mob robberies, it seems likely that some of the property damage was caused by criminal opportunists using the protests for cover. The ransacking of stores in Philadelphia, two months ago, was an example of this.
The Republican efforts to normalize the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to overturn the result of the election included the national party, through a resolution, censuring U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their participation in the House investigation of the insurrection, declaring that what happened on Jan. 6 was “legitimate political discourse.” Former President Donald Trump declared those who were convicted of crimes on that day to be political prisoners whom he was leaning toward pardoning should he become president again. These were the tip of the normalization iceberg.
If President Joe Biden or the Democratic Party has expressed similar sympathy for the approximately 14,000 suspects who were arrested during the Floyd protests, it seems to have slipped my mind.
— Curt Fredrikson, Mokena
Validity of motivating factor
In reading letter writer Richard Vlach’s response to Clarence Page’s column, it appears that he is not reading his delivered Tribune thoroughly.
The Democrats’ supposed normalization of violence at Black Lives Matter protests poses a big difference to the Republican normalization of the protests on Jan. 6. The BLM protests were a reaction to a truth, the overtly harsh treatment of Black people by a small number of police officers. The unrest during Jan. 6 was instigated by a lie. A false equivalency, another unfortunate hallmark of the current Republican Party.
— Robert Piatt, South Elgin
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