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WIC nutrition program is making a difference

Minnesota’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides vouchers for nutritious food such as low-fat milk, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (photo by Michael Brun)

Minnesota's obesity rate among children ages 2 to 4 from low-income families participating in the Women, Infants and Children program decreased from 12.7 percent in 2010 to 12.3 percent in 2014, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Minnesota's obesity rate for young children enrolled in WIC is the eighth lowest in the nation. One out of every three children ages 2-5 in the state are served by WIC.

WIC promotes healthy eating and nutrition education for infants and children up to age 5 and low- to middle-income women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding.

The decrease in obesity follows healthy changes to the WIC food package in 2009 and increased support for breastfeeding participants.

Minnesota WIC promotes healthy weight through:

• Individualized nutrition assessments and counseling.

• Providing a nutritious food package that includes low-fat milk, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. (WIC vouchers are required to be used only for specific healthy foods)

• Monitoring appropriate weight gain and growth.

• Discouraging use of sweetened beverages.

• Encouraging families to be physically active and to limit screen time for television, computers and video games.

• Promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and breastfeeding with healthy foods for the first year of life through peer counseling and breastfeeding support.

• Promoting appropriate weight gain during pregnancy to support healthy birth weights.

Good nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical for healthy growth and development.

Melissa from Red Wing said that her daughter who is pregnant is eating better because of WIC. "When she is grocery shopping she is buying healthier foods because that is what she can get with her WIC vouchers."

By offering WIC benefits to families with young children, WIC hopes to promote healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.

Alexandra, another WIC participant had this to say, "When I started on WIC, I didn't even know what it stood for. But now I see that it offers nutritional guidance and education all the way through: to women, infants and children. I am so thankful for the program and it goes way beyond the monetary benefits. As a new mom, I wouldn't have known where to begin in feeding my child."

Bea Haines, WIC coordinator in Goodhue County, says, "We are seeing more children drinking lowfat milk and eating whole grains. Although we are making progress in helping children to eat healthier, there is still work to do."

Children still need to eat more vegetables and fewer processed foods — which are high in salt.

A family's income also plays a role in healthy eating, as lower-income families may be less likely to buy healthier foods that usually cost more. They also may have limited access to these healthy foods, depending upon where they live.

Children receiving WIC benefits are eating better than children not receiving them.

The WIC program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The local office is in the Goodhue County Health and Human Services building at 426 West Avenue in Red Wing.

WIC services are also available in Zumbrota, Cannon Falls and Kenyon.

To determine eligibility or to make an appointment, call 651-385-6120.

For more information, visit www.co.goodhue.mn.us/195/WIC.

About Goodhue County HHS

The mission of Goodhue County Health and Human Services is to "Promote, Protect and Strengthen the Health of Individuals, Families, and Communities."

The department has three service divisions: Economic Assistance, Public Health, and Social Services.

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