According to a University of Missouri study, families who rely on assistance through the WIC nutritional program experience a 5 to 11% increase in hunger when a child turns five. Dr. Colleen Heflin with the Truman School of Public Affairs says eligibility ends at age five.

Dr. Colleen Heflin (Photo courtesy of Truman School of Public Affairs)

Dr. Colleen Heflin (Photo courtesy of Truman School of Public Affairs)

“There’s a very straightforward policy solution here and that’s for the federal government to extend eligibility for the WIC program to the point when children actually enter kindergarten,” says Heflin.

The study does not cover what the cost would be to implement this change, but Heflin says the investment would be worth it.

“The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is not a very expensive program. The value of the basket of food that the children receive during by the time they are in their final years is much smaller than say the SNAP program. It’s a basket of nutrition-dense food and I think it’s widely considered to be one of the most successful programs that mutes any benefit cost analysis,” says Heflin.

Another MU study says the percentage of Missouri families experiencing hunger has more than doubled in the last decade.

A USDA report ranks Missouri second highest in the nation for people lacking food. The most recent figures say about 840,000 Missourians receive food stamps.