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Tennessee WIC Program Gets a New Look for 2011

Friday, March 04, 2011 | 05:31am

Supplemental Food Packages now include more variety

NASHVILLE – The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, is working to improve the health of low-income women and children in the face of challenges such as childhood obesity and increases in chronic disease. WIC’s food package now offers a wider variety of nutritious foods that are lower in fat, higher in fiber and more culturally appropriate.

“The WIC food package is created with the specific goal of improving health among the women and children who participate in the program,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper. “The package has been updated to correspond with the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and is designed to help reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity and lower the risk of chronic diseases.”

WIC is also committed to assisting new mothers in establishing breastfeeding in the first weeks after birth, and participants will now receive enhanced breastfeeding support services. WIC clients may participate in mother-to-mother peer counseling for breastfeeding support and have access to other breastfeeding experts, aids and health care referrals. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed receive more variety and larger quantities of foods in their WIC food package, and infants who are exclusively breastfed receive larger quantities and more types of baby food at 6 months of age.

“Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for babies, and studies show babies who are breastfed are less likely to be overweight or obese than children who are fed formula,” said Peggy T. Lewis, MHE, RD, LDN, director of Supplemental Nutrition Programs. “The United States Surgeon General and other nutrition experts recommend breastfeeding infants for at least the first 12 months after birth.”

WIC participants receive nutrition education that encourages families to focus on lifestyle changes they can make to improve nutrition and health. Nutrition educators work with families to identify goals and achieve positive changes. This participant-centered approach helps WIC clients learn to make healthful food choices, get the most from their food budget and prepare healthful meals for their families.

The new WIC food package offers low-fat milk and cheese as well as whole grain cereals and breads. Brown rice and whole wheat tortillas are also available. Participants receive cash value vouchers to purchase fresh or frozen fruits without added sugar, and any fresh or frozen vegetables without added ingredients. White potatoes are exempted from the program.

WIC is a federally funded nutrition assistance program providing supplemental foods to low income pregnant women, new mothers, breastfeeding mothers and children up to age five. Participants use WIC benefits at authorized grocery stores to purchase their food packages. The program also provides nutrition education and referrals to health care services. In Tennessee, more than 326,000 women and children have received WIC benefits during the past year.

WIC is available through Tennessee’s county health departments. Applicants must meet federal income guidelines and show proof of identity, residency and income. WIC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, gender or disability. The United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service administers the program. For more information, visit the Tennessee WIC website at or call 1-800-DIAL-WIC (1-800-342-5942).

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