USDA Recognizes WIC Agencies for Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is recognizing state and local agencies of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (more commonly known as WIC) that excel in offering education and support for breastfeeding mothers. As part of World Breastfeeding Week activities, Vilsack has also proclaimed this week, Aug. 1-7, as National WIC Breastfeeding Week, “in appreciation of breastfeeding mothers and of all the dedicated volunteers, professionals, communities, and organizations who support their efforts.”
“The work being done by WIC programs to empower mothers to breastfeed—addressing societal barriers, enhancing peer counselor programs, building key coalitions, and more-is absolutely vital and deserves recognition,” said Vilsack. “There is no better food than breast milk for a baby’s first year of life. Increasing breastfeeding rates can help reduce the prevalence of various illnesses and health conditions, which in turn results in lower health care costs.”
According to a 2010 study, if 90 percent of U.S. families could comply with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would prevent more than 900 deaths save $13 billion per year and from reduced direct and indirect medical costs and the cost of premature death.
Throughout the week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is recognizing outstanding breastfeeding programs with WIC Breastfeeding Performance Bonuses and the WIC Loving Support Awards of Excellence. The recognition supports the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which calls for increased emphasis on breastfeeding promotion and support in the WIC program.
This year, WIC Breastfeeding Performance Bonuses are presented to large (>1,000 infants) and small (<1,000 infants) high-performing WIC agencies with the greatest improvement in the percentage of exclusively breastfed infants over the past year. A total of $500,000 will be awarded to eight state WIC agencies and Indian tribal organizations that have demonstrated successful breastfeeding promotion and support efforts. The performance bonuses highlight WIC agencies’ successful breastfeeding initiatives, while encouraging and motivating other state agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support services.
For the first time, USDA is also recognizing exemplary WIC local agencies with the WIC Loving Support Awards of Excellence. WIC agencies utilizing the USDA Loving Support Model for a successful peer counseling program were eligible to apply for the honor, which considers their breastfeeding performance measures, effective peer counseling programs and community partnerships. A total of 55 local WIC agencies across the country qualified for an award. By recognizing their success and sharing best practices, the WIC Loving Support Awards of Excellence will provide successful models and motivation to other WIC local agencies with the goal of ultimately increase breastfeeding rates among WIC participants.
The WIC program provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and referrals to health and other social services to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five. Services are made available through approximately 1,900 local agencies and 10,000 clinic sites. Visit www.fns.usda.gov/WIC to learn more about the WIC program.
In addition to WIC, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services administers several other programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
Photo credit: ECohen