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Fresh choices coming to Minnesota WIC program

Perhaps you know a family that is being served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or perhaps your family has utilized the WIC program yourself.

Perhaps you know a family that is being served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) or perhaps your family has utilized the WIC program yourself.

Currently, more than 1,000 women, infants and children are receiving WIC services in Douglas County.

WIC participants are anxiously anticipating some long overdue program changes, according to program leaders.

Starting later this year, WIC participants will receive additional vouchers for fruits, vegetables, whole grain products and baby foods.

In addition, soy products and other culturally sensitive foods will be an option for participants for the first time.

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Mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies will receive the greatest variety and largest quantity of food.

Some of the foods currently being offered on the WIC program, such as the amount of formula, cheese and higher fat milk for adults and children older than the age of 2, will be reduced or eliminated.

The food package changes are coming following a decade of research and recent recommendations from the Institute of Medicine.

Since its inception in 1972, the WIC program has been known for providing nutrition education, breastfeeding support and supplemental foods to the clients it serves.

When the program started, its main objectives were to combat problems involving low birth weight, poorly nourished mothers and under nourished children.

Childhood hunger and iron deficient anemia were also public health concerns of the time. The original WIC food packages, consisting of milk, cheese, juice, eggs, cereal and beans, were designed to supplement the participant's diets with foods rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and protein.

Over the past 30-plus years, major changes have occurred in the health and nutrition risks faced by the WIC population including diets lacking in whole grains and fruits and vegetables, a shortened duration of breastfeeding and overweight and obesity.

The program has also seen a dramatic shift in the ethnic composition of the WIC population.

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The goal of incorporating the new foods is to bring the WIC food package more in line with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and infant feeding practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The changes also better support the fundamental nutrition education messages taught by the WIC program: "eat more fruits and vegetables," "lower saturated fat," "increase whole grains and fiber," "drink less sweetened beverages and juice" and "babies are meant to breastfeed."

To qualify for the WIC program, participants must be a pregnant or postpartum woman, an infant younger than the age of 1 or a child younger than the age of 5. Families must also meet income eligibility requirements and have a health or nutritional need.

If you would like to see if your family qualifies, call the Douglas County WIC office at (320) 763-7805.

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