WIC program adds new, healthy choices
The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children is changing, adding healthier options and encouraging more women to breastfeed their babies. It is the first major changes to the program in more than 30 years. Lyn Konstant, Missouri WIC director, said the changes would improve the health of many Missourians.
"Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for both babies and moms," Konstant said. "Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months and reduces the risk of allergies, asthma, diabetes and certain childhood cancers."
Beth Swopes, Vernon County Health Department, said WIC encouraged breastfeeding.
"WIC really encourages breastfeeding," Swopes said. "It's what's best."
Swopes said the program's registered nurse, Joy Hawks, had been with the program in Vernon County since its inception.
"When Joy started in 1979 we had nine moms the first month, we get 700 a month now, and Joy's been there every month," Swopes said. "She's a big advocate for breastfeeding."
Swopes said that the new food package contained items not available before, such as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, canned beans and whole grain items such as bread. Babies who are not breastfed also receive baby meats.
"If they choose not to breastfeed we make sure they have iron-fortified formula and baby meats," Swopes said.
Vernon County has a high percentage of families in WIC and related programs such as free and reduced lunches at schools.
"In Vernon County we have a lot of families on WIC and free and reduced lunches," Swopes said. "I get information from the state and they say 54 percent of moms here are on WIC."
Mothers also receive education so they can best utilize the food they receive from WIC. The education begins even before their babies are born
"They come in while they're pregnant and get nutrition counseling so they eat better," Swopes said. "It's better for the babies for the mothers to have good nutrition."
To qualify for the WIC program participants must: visit a local WIC clinic to have their nutritional health status assessed by a health professional, provide proof of identity and residence in Missouri, and meet certain income requirements.
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