Chris Schulz Published

WIC Provides Nutritional Support And More For Parents

A colorful array of fruits and vegetables is displayed on a table. A large bowl of blueberries is visible at the center bottom of frame, with a bowl of raspberries to the right. There are cut kiwis, a bowl of cherries, an avocado and a grapefruit cut in half. There are a few bowls of nuts as well. The image is bordered by a blue gradient with pastel colored circles above and below. In the top left of the frame are the words "Now What? A Series On Parenting" and in the bottom right is the WVPB logo.
Government programs like WIC can provide parents with help on nutrition and more.
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Parents are often left with many questions about how to raise a child. Two of the areas that are most concerning and confusing are feeding and nutrition. Government programs can offer many different kinds of support as Chris Schulz learned when he sat down to speak with WIC Outreach Liaison Sarah Moore for the latest installment of “Now What? A Series on Parenting.”

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Schulz: What is WIC?

Moore: It’s a supplemental food program for women, infants and children up to the age of five. It provides nutritional assistance. The big thing we’re known for is giving food at stores when we help with formula, but another thing that isn’t known about us, we do breastfeeding assistance. So we have trained lactation consultants, they do all the breastfeeding assistance so you don’t have to pay for a lactation consultant and stuff like that. 

We’re income eligible, and if you have a Medicaid card, and CHIP Gold, you’re automatically qualified. The state serves like 35,800 right now, and that includes pregnant women, postpartum women, infants and children. 

Schulz: Why is ensuring that this particular population is receiving proper nutrition so important?

Moore: WIC was actually founded because they were finding that this population was iron deficient, so they are anemic and that can have really bad health outcomes. If it’s at a young age, in general too, but when you focus on that age and brain development, there’s issues with that, with their health outcomes. We do iron testing and lead testing. But a lot of our foods and stuff that are in our package are focused on improving that iron number. 

It’s changed a lot throughout the years, though. It’s always good to go with WIC because we have people come in all the time that say, “Hey, I’ve EBT, why should I have WIC?” And it’s just because we have that nutrition, nutritional food, that package that’s going to supplement your food stamps, to make sure your child has a well-rounded diet. It just all goes with the brain development, and just your body’s growing so much in that timeframe. The toddler years kind of set the stage for the rest of your life. 

Schulz: When we talk about the women that are served by Women, Infants and Children, by WIC, are we talking specifically about pregnant women? Or does that extend to the parents of young children as well?

Moore: So the women part comes from the pregnant woman and then postpartum because we serve up to six months if they aren’t breastfeeding, and a year if they are breastfeeding. But it is for all parents that have children in that age range. That’s a common misconception because it does say Women, Infants and Children, but yeah, it covers all parents.

Schulz: Is that why the organization nationally has started to shift away from women, infant children and towards WIC, to kind of signal that it’s more broad-based?

Moore: I would say so. Yes. Because there has been a misconception before with single dads and stuff that they don’t qualify, and we don’t want people turned away, to not even consider WIC because they don’t think they are the right target that we’re trying to get in. No, we accept all parents.

Schulz: Is the focus on healthier foods, fresh foods, how does that play into education beyond lactation consultation?

Moore: It is healthier foods. So it’s not like an EBT card where you can just go and get whatever food you want. There’s a lot of iron-fortified, low sugar foods, whole grains. We also have fresh fruits and vegetables, we do want people to have access, we also have farmers market benefits. 

Participants will receive $30. So if you have a pregnant mom, a one year old and a two year old, that’s $90 to spend at your local farmers markets. So now you have your cash value benefits and your farmers market benefits. So like in the summer months, you’ll get a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Schulz: Obviously, you’re working with the parents in your program to teach them about healthier foods, to teach them about how to avoid that iron deficiency. First of all, how is that happening? And are you addressing other issues like picky eating?

Moore: Yes, we are. Picky eating is probably one of the biggest things we get with that age range. But we do have nutritionists on staff. So when you come in for your clinic appointment, you will speak to a nutritionist, they’ll kind of go over your child’s day-to-day, what they’re eating. But we also ask for the parents’ concern so if there is picky eating concerns, or something related to that we can kind of offer suggestions on how to combat that. 

We talk about weaning from the bottle, we’ve addressed potty training and stuff like that. So it’s kind of the go-to source for questions for parents if they’re struggling with something with their child, hopefully we have the answer and if not, we can refer you to someone that has the answer.

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