After 8 years, Morgan's WIC program moves back to Ogden

Friday , November 17, 2017 - 5:15 AM

CATHY MCKITRICK & LEIA LARSEN, Standard-Examiner Staff

MORGAN — In July, the Weber-Morgan Health Department vacated the portable classroom it had used as an office and clinic to administer the federally funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides food and nutrition assistance to low-income moms with infants and children under five years of age.

According to Brian Bennion, executive director for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, WIC helps about 35 families or 70 clients who live in Morgan, a city of roughly 4,049 residents. The Morgan School District allowed the Health Department to use the Quonset hut classroom rent-free one day per month for the past eight years, but the growing school district decided it was time to reclaim that space.

The Weber-Morgan Health Department first learned of the pending change in early May, giving them a couple of months to find new digs. And while they operate an office in the small city’s Northfront Business Resource Center at 318 E. 300 North where they can provide immunizations, food handler permits and health promotions, appropriate WIC office and clinic space failed to materialize.

To qualify for WIC, women must be pregnant, breastfeeding, or recently have given birth — or have an infant and child under 5 years of age. They also must meet certain income limitations or be receiving Medicaid or Food Stamps.

Since August, Morgan’s WIC clients have been making the half-hour trip into Ogden once every three months to tap WIC benefits available inside the Weber-Morgan Health Department Annex at 455 23rd St. And for now, that setup seems to be working.

“We have a very nice clinic space and they have access to support classes right here,” said Lori Buttars, spokeswoman for the Weber-Morgan Health Department. “We’ve had very few missed appointments if any, so the people are coming and getting their services.”

Morgan, with its cozy small-town feel, is the largest city in a 611-square-mile county of just over 11,000 residents. And demand for public transportation in this bucolic region of Utah is almost nonexistent.

According to Utah Transit Authority spokesperson Marc Bowman, the Morgan County Council began exploring transit options with the Wasatch Front Regional Council about two years ago. 

“They were looking at the possibility of getting annexed into UTA’s service district,” Bowman said. That process would require approval from UTA’s Board of Trustees and acquiring public feedback.

“There was a public meeting held there in an attempt to gauge interest,” Bowman said. “And there just wasn’t an interest in having transit or being part of the transit district. So the discussion was tabled.”

UTA could still serve as a mobility resource for Morgan’s low-income residents, senior citizens and people with disabilities, but Morgan County would need to initiate a proposal identifying gaps in transportation, Bowman said, adding that Federal Transit Administration funding, administered by the Utah Department of Transportation, could help finance the service. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food & Nutrition Service, an average of 53,890 people in Utah participated in WIC each month from Oct. 2016 to Aug 2017.

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or cmckitrick@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @catmck. 

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