Many health advocates are worried about what will happen to nearly 9 million mothers in need of food for their kids if the money flow to federally funded state nutrition-assistance programs dries up in just a few weeks, The Associated Press reported.
Officials said they were most concerned about the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (a.k.a. WIC). This program supplies low-income mothers, who have kids younger than 5, with money to buy infant formula, cereal, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods that poor families are otherwise unable to afford.

Some states, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, said they’ll be able to operate WIC offices at least through the end of October. But Utah’s WIC program already closed down last week—until it received $2.5 million in emergency USDA funding. And almost everyone is fearful about the possible damage to communities if the shutdown lasts beyond the end of the month.

Mass confusion about the shutdown already led many mothers to falsely assume that their benefits were cut off. In addition, some grocery stores refused WIC vouchers because shop owners feared the government wouldn’t reimburse them. (In Oklahoma, WIC officials called and emailed store owners to reassure them the program remains funded.) What’s more, if the shutdown slides into November, other federal food assistance programs, such as food stamps, could be affected.

If WIC offices are forced to close, health advocates fear some moms could become desperate and dilute their babies’ formula with water. This is an unhealthy practice that several studies have linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems and obesity. For more information, click here.