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Release No. 0158.10
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USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

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USDA to Provide Incentives to States Expanding Access to Nutrition Programs for Women, Infants, and Children

Funding to Assist With Breastfeeding and Nutrition Programs for Families in Need

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced performance awards to States that have done an exceptional job promoting and supporting breastfeeding efforts among mothers participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Authorized by the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (P.L. 111-80), these first time awards totaling $5 million will recognize those state agencies that have improved and achieved high rates of breastfeeding among WIC participants and families in need.

"The WIC program is critical to helping low-income mothers get their children off to a healthy start and it is important that we recognize those states that are doing an exceptional job promoting and expanding access," said Vilsack. "With the WIC program now reaching half of all babies born in the United States we must take this opportunity to enhance the program through reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act and use this critical program to help reduce childhood hunger and improve nutrition across the country."

Every five years, Congress considers improvements to the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act which includes WIC, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. These programs affect the lives of millions of children and young people and have the potential to improve their health and wellbeing for years to come.

WIC currently serves more than nine million women, infants and children each month. The Program provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care and social services referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

"Research shows that WIC plays an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs associated with premature births and low birth weights," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "We have an unprecedented opportunity this year through the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act to strengthen the WIC program and move us closer towards our goal to end childhood hunger and combat obesity in America."

First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative focuses on kids learning to be healthy adults and ending childhood obesity within a generation. Studies have shown that breastfed babies have a reduced risk of being overweight later in life.

WIC historically promotes breastfeeding as the optimal method of feeding infants, unless medically contraindicated, as it provides positive health benefits for both the mother and child. The recent changes to the WIC Food Packages and the expansion of the WIC Peer Counselor Program also reinforce breastfeeding as a priority for WIC. The bonus awards were divided among the top ten State agencies with the highest rates of breastfed infants and the greatest improvement in breastfeeding rates. Each award is based on the State agency's proportionate share of breastfeeding WIC participants subject to a minimum award of $5,000 for small State agencies and $50,000 for large State agencies.

Highest Breastfeeding Rates

Larger State Agencies:

Alaska, $72,515

Navajo Nation, AZ, $50,000

New York, $1,600,268

Oregon , $311,463

Washington, $415,512

Smaller State Agencies:

American Samoa, $15,539

Five Sandoval, NM, $5,000

Santo Domingo Tribe, NM, $5,000

Pueblo of Zuni, NM, $5,000

Virgin Islands, $19,703

Greatest Improvement in Breastfeeding Rates

Larger State Agencies:

Louisiana, $259,710

Missouri, $291,191

Nevada, $129,331

New Hampshire, $50,000

Texas, $1,744,709

Smaller State Agencies:

Ute Mountain Tribe, CO, $5,000

Northern Marianas, $5,000

Pleasant Point, ME, $5,000

Omaha Nation, NE, $5,000

Osage Nation, OK, $5,059

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs that work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Learn more by visiting www.fns.usda.gov. First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign has four primary tenets: helping parents make healthy family choices, serving healthier food in schools, improving access to healthy, affordable food, and increasing the physical activity level of kids. Learn more by visiting www.LetsMove.gov.

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