The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded Andrew County, Missouri, with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Loving Support Award of Excellence for exemplary efforts in supporting breastfeeding WIC mothers. These awards were part of USDA’s National WIC Breastfeeding Week, celebrated August 1-7.
Breastfeeding provides countless benefits to both babies and mothers, as well as many benefits to society as a whole, including decreased healthcare costs and increased productivity. While breastfeeding is natural, there is a learning curve for moms and babies, and all mothers benefit from having a supportive environment in which to learn how to feed their babies. Many mothers find success in breastfeeding through education and support from breastfeeding peer counselors and lactation consultants, and providing these resources to mothers is a crucial part of Missouri’s Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“WIC serves millions of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and their young children,” said Cheryl Kennedy, Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator. “We recognize the hard work and effort that occurs at the State and local levels to provide this important benefit to all WIC participants, and the Loving Support Award of Excellence celebrates local agencies that provide exemplary breastfeeding programs and support services.”
Andrew County Health Department WIC Program has earned a Gold Award for their breastfeeding practices, including providing a private breastfeeding room close to an employee’s work area and advising expectant mothers of the space before maternity leave. Andrew County also accepts donated mother’s milk and stores and ships frozen milk following the Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank procedures. The program also acknowledges peer counselor accomplishments through a recognition program and offers upward mobility through a career path structure.
“The Missouri WIC program fully supports all mothers who would like to breastfeed,” said Lisa Schlientz, State Breastfeeding Coordinator with Missouri DHSS WIC and Nutrition Services. “We are proud of the extra efforts made by Andrew County, even during a major public health crisis, to provide a full range of breastfeeding services to WIC participants who choose breastfeeding to provide a healthy start for their baby. This support empowers our Missouri moms and enables them to be successful.”
WIC agencies that have operated a peer counseling program for at least one year and meet all of the required core components of the WIC Breastfeeding Model for Peer Counseling, including recruiting and hiring from WIC’s target population, and being available to WIC clients outside usual clinic hours, are eligible to apply for the award.
The award program was established to recognize local WIC agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities. Awards highlight successful models and encourage other local agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities and ultimately increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants. Awards are given at three levels of performance: Gold, Gold Premiere, and Gold Elite.
The WIC Program serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, resources on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. More information about the WIC program can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/WIC.
In addition to WIC, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services administers several other programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the Summer Food Service Program, which together comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.