For Immediate Release
Mike Heideman, KDHE, 785-296-4363 (office)
Effective Monday, August 3, participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) across Kansas have access to a greater number of healthy food choices. In total, the new WIC foods are lower in fat, higher in fiber, and help families meet the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The new food choices mean that WIC participants will get a boost to better health.
“These changes represent a continuing investment in our children’s health,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), which oversees the WIC program. “The new WIC foods reflect the latest science on healthy diets, and help to address the public health challenge of obesity.”
“This is the first major change in the foods offered by WIC to low-income women, infants, and children in 35 years,” said David Thomason, Kansas State WIC Director. “In preparation for these historic changes, the Kansas WIC Program trained over 430 local health department staff and more than 900 employees from all WIC-participating Kansas grocery stores.”
The foods newly covered under the WIC program include whole grain cereals, whole wheat breads, rolls, buns, and tortillas, canned beans, brown rice, jarred baby foods, and fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. Women and children over age 2 will receive low or non-fat milk only. The new foods are part of a nationwide implementation that will be complete by October 1. In addition, families will now receive milk, juice and eggs in quantities that follow current dietary recommendations.
WIC will also continue to promote successful, long-term breastfeeding of infants. The WIC program offers an additional incentive to breastfeeding mothers by providing them with the highest amount and greatest variety of foods. WIC staff provide counseling and support of breastfeeding to all expectant and new moms, and in some areas provide special support through breastfeeding peer counselor services.
“I love the WIC program,” stated one enthusiastic Johnson County WIC mom. “Without WIC I wouldn’t be able to get the foods that my kids need.”
The Johnson County Health Department was the first Kansas WIC clinic to offer the new foods. Laura Drake, the Johnson County WIC Coordinator stated, “This is a very positive change for the WIC program and our participants have been excited about the change too. We have anticipated these changes for quite some time.”
A variety of nutrition education and training materials were developed as part of a marketing campaign to educate Kansas families on the upcoming changes in WIC foods. WIC families received a colorful new program booklet featuring healthy shopping tips and guides to explain all of the new choices. Two DVDs were produced in conjunction with the changes, one for WIC clients and one for cashiers at participating WIC grocery stores.
The Kansas WIC program provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support, health referrals, and nutritious foods to over 77,000 participants monthly. WIC is federally funded and is administered by KDHE through contracts with local health departments. Since 1974, the WIC program has combated childhood hunger, low birth weight, under-nutrition, and iron deficiency anemia through offering nutritious foods, nutrition counseling and medical referrals.