In order to better serve area clients, Belmont County WIC - Women, Infants and Children First program, employees from the St. Clarisville and Martins Ferry offices have been holding office hours on the second Friday of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Barnesville at Ohio Hills Health Services.

The Barnesville office hours began four months ago as part of a one- year pilot program.

WIC offers healthy foods, nutrition and referral services and breastfeeding support. At the monthly Barnesville hours, clients can obtain coupons, food issuances, nutritional education sessions and re-certification every six months.

The Barnesville hours are staffed by Claire Shorts, clinical coordinator and Christina Scott who handles intake. Shorts said clients must come to the St. Clairsville or Martins Ferry offices for their initial appointment.

Shorts said the average client list for Barnesville is about 16 people. She said there have been fewer missed appointments since the Barnesville program began.

"We like providing services for Barnesville clients, it is easier for them and saves gas," Short said, adding that the success of the program so far, may lead the agency to add another day per month.

"We have had positive feedback so far," Short said. "We love coming here and the families are familiar with the (OHHS) office. WIC is a nice service to provide."

Short said although the Barnesville hours require more work for her and her staff, Dr. Lee-Wood and his staff have welcomed them.

"They have been wonderful helping us set up," Short said.

She said Belmont County WIC cooperates with other agencies and working families are encouraged to apply. To qualify for WIC services, you must live in Ohio, meet WIC income guidelines and meet certain nutritional or health risks.

To qualify for WIC: Your income should be within the following guidelines: family of two gross $2,159 monthly; family of three gross $2,714 monthly; family of four gross $3,269 monthly and family of five gross $3,824 monthly.

Those who qualify include: women who are pregnant, breastfeeding up to one year post-delivery, non-breastfeeding up to six months post delivery, infants and children birth to five years.

Short said changes will be made to the food packages this year and will include more fresh fruits and vegetables. She said the changes to the children's food packages and the food for breastfeeding mothers is part of the program's goal to prevent obesity and encourage healthy eating habits.

Short said the state of Ohio has a record high of 300,000 WIC participants because of the economy.

The Belmont County WIC program also sponsors walk-in clinics on Tuesdays in St. Clairsville and on Wednesdays in Bellaire. The hours are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. New clients need proof of address, proof of income and identification such as a drivers license or a social security card. Crib cards will be accepted for newborns. Clients who need recertified will need proof of income and their WIC folders. Also, a written authorization from a parent/guardian to have a child receive WIC services is needed if a parent/guardian is not with a child at the time of rectification. Belmont County WIC is having open enrollment the months of January and February.

For more information call the St. Clairsville office at 695-0222 or the Bellaire office at 676-2232.