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This week I am reporting to you from the WIC State Office in Benson Tower in downtown New Orleans. For all those unaware, WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children. It helps low income pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, and children through age 5 purchase grocery items needed for proper growth and development. Like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), you have to qualify. The eligibility requirements and other imperative information can be found on the federal WIC website. And contrary to popular belief, not everyone can reap the benefits of WIC. Children or mothers must be at nutritional risk and signed off by a doctor before qualifying. And its enrollment requires clinic visits to receive food tickets and nutrition education classes for every voucher redeemer. It’s concept is perfect but with every government regulated program, fraud is often (read: always) an issue.

Liz and I were introduced to the two private investigators that WIC has on staff in Louisiana. For the whole state, the grant only has room for two PIs. And they must travel the entire state to make sure vendors are doing their job correctly. Larger corporations have automatic systems that scan the commodities WIC provides, but groceries with 3 or fewer cash registers are often the target for fraud investigations. These PIs are awesome at what they do and they have told us many stories. Let’s just say it is true…just when you think you have heard it all, here comes another one that will blow your mind.

I’m working on a case with a breast feeding mother who is struggling to help her 1 month old gain weight with mothers milk and formula. Another great feature of WIC is the access patients have to supporters in breast feeding, formula feeding and general nutrition education for the children. Dietitians are available by appointment and topics include anything from pacifiers to techniques to weaning.

I’m also putting together a PowerPoint for Sheila, our preceptor, on 5 states and the policies implemented for the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. WIC recipients are eligible for 6-$4 vouchers to be used at the markets in the area. The farmers work with them to get the right amount of produce for the $4. The recipients must go to the market to obtain the vouchers and some markets (like crescent city) are matching the vouchers and giving mothers an extra $24 in market tokens. What a generous idea!! In Louisiana, we only have ~$9,000 for the whole state to share in market money. There is no other state in the US that has less than $30,000 to split between WIC recipients at the markets. Louisiana is trying to step up for next year as long as 80% are redeemed. Sheila is working around the clock to promote the vouchers and get women and children to buy from the farmers. I think we may get a market raise next year with all the work she is putting in!

Anyway, here is my work space. And yes, I was actually referencing those books. I didn’t just open them for good looks in the picture.

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I have been cooking up a storm lately. I have a few more recipes to share with you.

I have been avoiding the Chocolate Covered Katie blog like the plague because something about the term “healthy desserts” seriously bothers me. They are not healthy, they are lower calorie. The term healthy is used so loosely now. I could put “healthy” in front of trans fat and people would fall for it. So sorry if I offend you Katie, but please eat something besides low-calorie desserts. Your arms look like wet noodles. But I caved in when I saw No-Bake Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie Bites. I have been craving fall weather and have been slightly depressed with the humidity and fogging glasses. This was going to be the perfect cure!! Even if it was Chocolate Covered Katie. Well they were delicious. One problem. Katie says they make 21 bites. But I added extra pumpkin and oats and still only made 13 smallish 2-bite cookies. Her bites must have been microscopic because there is no way I was going to stretch 21 cookies out of that batter….no way. Creation finished! Oh this is only half. Mom and I have been snacking.

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Another recipe I have discovered is this awesome olive oily pizza dough. It makes 2 batches. So I made one and the other is in the freezer ready for the next pizza. One thing about my pizza I cannot stand: when people put chicken on it. That is an automatic “you ruined the pizza” label in my opinion. My dream pizza has every vegetable you could imagine and more. Who doesn’t like a pizza with banana peppers, bell pepper (every color), onion, garlic, spinach, green onion, tomatoes, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli and freshly grated mozzarella?! The crust was outstanding and I highly recommend it…especially with the whole wheat option because I cannot comment on the full all purpose flour version. I added garlic powder, greek seasoning and a drizzle more olive oil to the top before baking in the oven a few minutes. I then added the toppings and baked until they were finished. The only picture I have is of the dough mixing. Didn’t snap a picture fast enough before it was gone!

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One last recipe, I promise. This one I made tonight. Blueberry Pumpkin Oven Pancakes derived from this recipe. Some changes: half whole wheat flour, canned pumpkin added to batter. It took the entire 25 minutes but it was well worth the wait. It came out great. It must be good if my Dad enjoyed blueberries. Here’s a few snapshots.

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Scrambled eggs with green onion are the perfect protein to add to this brinner (that means breakfast for dinner…watch Scrubs and you will understand).

The weather man better not be lying about tomorrow because it’s time for another long run! Humidity 61% by 7am, High of 81. Yes please!!

Until next time! Eat Smart and Move More.