What is the WIC Program?
By Kimberly Pagel, RD LD
March 20, 2017 at 9:12 p.m.
Updated March 21, 2017 at 6 a.m.
You may have heard of the WIC program or even seen the little pink "WIC Approved" stickers on the grocers' shelves, but do you really know much about it?
The WIC program was created in 1972 under the Child Nutrition Act. WIC program services are for pregnant women, breast-feeding women, women who have had a baby within the past six months, infants and children under 5 years old. These individuals must meet income requirements and be nutritionally at risk. The program is federally funded by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and locally operated by the Victoria County Public Health Department. Victoria's WIC program first opened in 1977 and currently helps about 4,200 participants across six counties: Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Lavaca and Victoria.
The WIC program was created with many goals in mind: reducing the complications of pregnancy; decreasing the number of low-birthweight infants; reducing iron-deficiency anemia in women, infants and children; and promoting optimal growth and development of infants and young children. The program aims to meet these goals by providing a combination of nutrition education, breast-feeding promotion and support, referrals for health care and access to healthy foods.
One of the program's valuable services is one-on-one personal counseling with various health professionals, including nurses, degree nutritionists, registered dietitians, trained breast-feeding educators and lactation consultants. During these sessions, all participants are given the opportunity to express any concerns and share any interests they may have. The health professional will use techniques that center on the participant and focus on their needs and interests. When participants speak to educators about a personal or family concern that WIC does not address, participants receive referrals to other appropriate community resources.
After providing personal counseling, the health professional will then assess each participant's nutritional needs and determine which food package is most appropriate for them. These food packages are based on the latest nutrition guidelines. They offer an array of healthful foods that are low in fat and high in fiber, have nutritional variety and help promote a healthy weight. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereal, low-fat milk, yogurt, eggs, juice, peanut butter, beans and baby foods are some examples of food benefits WIC provides.
The WIC program promotes breast-feeding as the optimal infant feeding choice, which is why breast-feeding services are an integral part of our provided benefits. Numerous opportunities for education and support are offered both pre- and post-natally. Peer counselors, who are mothers themselves, offer extensive breast-feeding experience and provide guidance and support to new mothers. In addition to counseling, breast pumps and nursing bras are also provided to moms who choose to breast-feed.
Another great benefit of being on the WIC program is access to group education classes. These classes cover topics that aim to stress the relationships between proper nutrition and health. They give the participant the opportunity to learn new things while meeting others and sharing experiences. The WIC program also offers participants the opportunity to learn and receive nutrition and breast-feeding education in the privacy of their own homes with our online classes. The participant can select from a variety of classes in both English and Spanish.
After the participant has spoken to the health professional and received personal counseling or attended the group class, the assigned food benefits are issued onto their personal WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, card for healthy supplemental foods.
The participant may then take this card to any approved WIC vendor to be redeemed for only the specific healthy foods that have been deemed nutritious and helpful for optimal growth. Be assured that when you see the pink "WIC approved" sticker at the grocery store, those foods are good, healthy choices to make.
Since it began, the WIC program has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful federally funded nutrition programs in the United States. Several studies and reports have indicated that the WIC program is cost-effective by improving and protecting the health and nutritional status of low-income women, infants and children. Evidence has shown that WIC participation has been linked to fewer premature infants, higher birth weights and lower infant mortality.
For the past 40 years, the WIC program of Victoria has been working to improve the nutrition and health of the area's eligible pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children by providing more healthy choices to meet their needs during critical periods of growth and development. We continue to aim to equip participants with accurate, useful information and empower them to promote good nutrition and physical activity for themselves and their families, well beyond their brief period of WIC program participation.
To set up an appointment or find out more information, please call the Victoria WIC program at 361-578-2884 or visit us online at texaswic.org.
Kimberly Pagel, a registered and licensed dietician, is the WIC Program manager and registered dietitian at the Victoria County Public Health Department-WIC Program.