A program that provides food to low-income women and their children is cutting the amount of milk participants receive to meet dietary guidelines and save money, officials said. The program is called WIC, for women, infants and children. It serves more than 21,000 people and spends about $1 million a month on food in Montana. Increasing food prices are cutting into that budget, said Joan Bowsher, WIC director for the state of Montana. Participants are given vouchers with a shopping list that allow them to buy a certain amount of milk, eggs, cheese, cereal and peanut butter or dry beans or peas and the state reimburses the store for the cost. "The food package issues more milk to our clients than is recommended now," Bowsher said. Immediately, the program is cutting the amount of milk the program will pay for from an average of six gallons per person, per month, to five. The cut does not apply to pregnant women under the age of 19, she said. The reduction will save the program about $70,000 per month, Bowsher said. Bowsher said WIC is also encouraging people to choose the lowest cost food available. Beginning in March, that will be a requirement. Montana is one of the last states to implement that requirement, and has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the program, for an exception to allow people to buy more costly brands if they can afford to pay the price difference. Bowsher said the state has seen food prices increase for years, but really started having trouble related to price increases in August. Staples like eggs, milk and cheese have increased in price anywhere from 17 to 80 percent since October 2006. "The state is continuing to analyze the situation and take all cost-saving measures into account while continuing to serve all of the people in the state who need WIC services," she said. To qualify for WIC, women must be pregnant, breastfeeding or recently had a baby. They must be residents of the state and have been determined by a health professional to be at nutritional or medical risk and have an income below 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.