The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children(WIC) is a federally funded program administered here through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), that provides nutritious foods, nutrition education and breastfeeding support, along with health and social services referrals to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to five years of age. Poor nutrition among pregnant women and infants can result in long-term health and development problems for children. WIC is highly beneficial, and studies show that women who received WIC during and after pregnancy have infants with higher birth weights and showed additional healthy characteristics when compared to eligible women who did not participate in WIC. In Colorado, there are more than 100,000 WIC participants each month.
During the two years of the Colorado No Kid Hungry Campaign, there have been many accomplishments in the program. There was a successful Farm to Family pilot project, several access barriers to the program were eliminated and progress was made on implementing changes for ease of program use. Further, breastfeeding rates among women participating in the program continue to improve and are some of the highest in the country. In fact, Colorado overall now has the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding at six months.
Breastfeeding rates among women participating in the program continue to improve and are some of the highest in the country. In fact, Colorado overall now has the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding at six months. The WIC program’s extensive training of local staff in lactation support as well as the use of peer counselors and provision of pumps have all contributed to this success. Supporting a mother’s choice to breastfeed continues to be a program priority given the very strong evidence of breastfeeding’s role in health promotion, including the prevention of obesity.
In 2011, a Farm to Family pilot was completed in Mesa County, allowing WIC participants to use WIC vouchers to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and stands. Following a successful 2012 report of the project, it entered the implementation phase and was open to other agencies. Three counties and/or local agencies as well as several farmers were authorized in 2012, and already in 2013, two more agencies have expressed interest and began accepting applications from farmers.
It was a busy year for WIC in 2012, as two new policies were implemented and a third approved in order to make WIC more accessible and easy to use for women, infants and children. The planning process for moving to use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards for benefit delivery is complete and the implementation process ready to begin once the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies funding for the project.
Split tender, which allows participants to pay the difference for produce that is not covered by the WIC voucher, allows participants to purchase larger amounts of produce without making two purchases through the cashier. Shelf labeling, which allows stores to identify WIC eligible items, makes shopping and finding the specific WIC items easier. Both of these processes have been approved and are up to individual stores to implement.
A third approved policy change that has yet to take effect is the change in certification period for children, from six months to one year. This change supports both the WIC office and the participants, as the participants will less frequently have to be re-certified and bring supporting documents, such as income verification, into the clinic.
Campaign partners continue to work closely with CDPHE to support the nutrition of pregnant and postpartum women, as well as infants and children. Learn more about WIC in Colorado.