Some of our most vulnerable citizens are among the first collateral damage in the partial federal government shutdown. The WIC (Women's, Infants, Children) program grinds to a halt - almost.

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WIC enables qualifying families to buy nutritious food on limited incomes through supplemental vouchers. They are pass-through funds, according to Ocean County officials, meaning that they're directly from federal sources. This accounts for the immedate stoppage that took place Tuesday.

However, say county health officials, there are some provisions that allow it to continue, if only on a limited and temporary basis.

A directive from the New Jersey Department of Health requires honoring of all WIC vouchers issued before the shutdown.

WIC participants encountering difficulty in redeeming valid vouchers should alert the Ocean County Health Department in Toms River (732-341-9700, extension 7520) or Lakewood (732-370-0122).

Applications can still be filed with Health Department staffers for precertification. However, checks will not be issued until the shutdown is lifted.

Health department staffers are also directing WIC subscribers and applicants to other food assistance programs.

Ocean County's 18,206 monthly WIC clients is the third largest number of any county in New Jersey, according to county Public Health Coordinator Dan Regenye.

Information is updated regularly at the Ocean County Health Department web page.