Growing Healthy Kids One Family at a Time
USDA Seeks Input to Improve Customer Service
WASHINGTON, DC, February 1, 2019 — USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides vital nutrition support to nearly 7 million women and children in the United States. As part of our commitment to “Do right and feed everyone,” USDA hosted a round table meeting today with state WIC directors, program administrators and participants from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia to discuss program access and client services.
“We want to work more closely on WIC with state and local agencies,” said USDA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Brandon Lipps. “Our intent is to improve customer service and today’s event allowed us to hear directly from those participating in the program and those serving our clients every day. WIC is a crucial contributor to infant and maternal health, and we want to make sure the program is accessible and relevant to all who need it.”
This was the first in a series of planned events designed to solicit stakeholder feedback on this important program. Other round tables will be held throughout 2019.
“It’s a perfect public health program,” so says Carol Bass, WIC coordinator for the Garrett County, Maryland Health Department and one of the participants in the discussion. She has been with WIC for 35 years, starting when it was a pilot program for far-western Maryland funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“Families trust us,” said Bass. “They get health screening and education, they value the education and the food we provide which helps fill in the gaps in their monthly food budget. We think that when a child grows up eating good food, quality food, that will carry on through their lives. We provide referral information to other food resources, and promote use of local farmers markets.”
Ms. Bass estimates that 75 percent of all young families in her rural county participate in WIC.
One Washington, D.C. participant at the round table was Crystal Reed, who has been involved in the program through Children’s National Health System since shortly after her now-22-month-old daughter was born. She says the education she received, along with the nutrition assistance provided by WIC was also appreciated. “It was great not having to worry about your next meal.” Her advice to those who have not chosen to participate in WIC is: “Be open minded about the program. The education and support you get from the people you see, the relationships I’ve built, are very important. People in the program went above and beyond for me. It’s like having a friend in need.”
The WIC target population includes low-income, nutritionally at risk infants and children up to their fifth birthday, as well as pregnant and breast feeding women and those who have recently given birth. Program recipients receive supplemental, high-quality foods, nutrition education and counseling, health screening and referrals.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works to reduce food insecurity and promote nutritious diets among the American people. The agency administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.
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