National Fruits and Vegetables Month: WIC Centers offer Healthier Food Options
The California WIC Program began offering healthier food options last October as part of a national goal to align WIC food packages with the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and current infant feeding guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Research shows the obesity epidemic disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Throughout Los Angeles County, seven local WIC agencies provide supplemental foods to nearly 600,000 low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5.
In addition to nutrition education and breastfeeding support, WIC participants receive food checks that can be used to buy specific healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread and grains and other expanded options in addition to milk, cheese, eggs and other foods that have always been offered.
"We're thrilled to see these new food options," said Judy Gomez, director of planning and projects for the Public Health Foundation Enterprises WIC Program (PHFE-WIC), who was involved in helping the state WIC program design a statewide education campaign for the new food options. "We've always talked about the benefits of good nutrition and healthy lifestyles and now we're finally able to offer participants more variety and healthier options."
California WIC launched a nutrition education campaign in early 2009 that taught smart shopping and cooking skills to help WIC families purchase and prepare the new food items. The campaign included messages such as "Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables," "Make Half Your Grains Whole," and "Lose the Fat, Keep the Vitamins ... Drink Low-Fat Milk."
The response to the new food packages has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Kiran Saluja, PHFE-WIC's deputy director. "People really like the fruit and vegetable checks -- we hear how pleased they are that WIC now provides these options."
For more information about the WIC program, call (888) 942-2229.
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