Since 1996, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children, often referred to as WIC, has been one of Cardinal Services’ most highly utilized programs.
As Cardinal Services celebrates its 60th anniversary year, the national WIC program is turning 40. It was then that WIC began providing funding to aid low-income pregnant and postpartum women with children age five and younger. The program serves those who have been deemed at risk for nutritional deficiencies. Thanks to WIC benefits, 53 percent of infants born in the United States are served through supplemental nourishment, health care referrals and programs educating mothers about nutrition.
The Kosciusko Country WIC staff consists of two nutritionists/board-certified lactation consultants, a clerk who is bilingual, one breast-feeding peer counselor, and a program coordinator who is a dietitian. Every year, the agency helps approximately 3,000 women and children through nutritional counseling and grocery checks. The knowledge and benefits empower families to provide nutritious meals for their young children.
In addition, WIC provides mothers with the opportunity to purchase fresh produce at participating farmers’ markets with checks that can be used to purchase their produce fresh and locally grown. The Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FNMP) combined with WIC’s grocery checks contribute nearly 2 million dollars a year to Kosciusko County’s economy.
In the past as part of their nutrition education, WIC families received a packet of carrot seeds and were told to bring a picture of their garden upon their next visit in order to receive a book for their children. WIC received many pictures, but the most telling response came from a 3-year-old boy who walked into the WIC office one day carrying a large bunch of carrots by the greens. The boy was clearly excited as his mother told WIC staff Mary Lemler how surprised she was to see the carrot plant growing so large. The boy had been so excited about growing his own carrots, he even asked his grandfather to help him build a garden. A couple weeks later, the child’s grandfather travelled from another state for a visit and the whole family spent time together working to build a garden for the excited 3-year-old.
“Experiences like this make working with WIC families so rewarding,” said Lemler. “A simple packet of carrot seeds resulted in a family spending time together and engaging in a physical activity. It led to a child’s sense of accomplishment, a healthy snack for the family, and the boy received a book as a bonus! I think we planted more than seeds.”
For more information about the Kosciusko County WIC Program of Cardinal Services, visit www.cardinalservices.org or call WIC at 574-269-4456.