Published: Nov 03, 2011 8:56 PM EDT
Updated: Nov 03, 2011 10:45 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- About 14 percent of the benefits for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, are not being used in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties. Health officials believe that's a result of confusion over benefits.

"Quite often, clients don't realize what is covered by their WIC checks, and they get embarassed when they are turned away at check-out," said Lori Riddle of the Lee Health Dept.

So, starting Thursday, health dept. workers are meeting WIC recipients in store aisles, and telling them what is allowed under their vouchers, and what is not. About 22,000 people in Lee, Hendry and Glades counties, get WIC benefits.

"We are meeting with the people and going through the aisles, advising them of how to properly  fill out their vouchers with food. It can be confusing. And the people have to know, the checks are good for only 30 days. Sometimes a mom will come in with an expired check. She just forgot to use it in time," said Riddle.

WIC recipients like Laura Dowling of Cape Coral like the effort to publicize the program.

"When I first started, I had some difficult times. I would bring things to the counter and the person would say, oh, you can't have this, or can't have that.  I'd have to return the item and try to find something that matched exactly the WIC check. At times it was embarassing, because it is a government hand-out. However, a lot of families are struggling now. I am a single mother, so it really helps me a lot," said Dowling.