Getting out into our nation’s communities and witnessing the impact federal nutrition programs have on lives leaves a lasting impression. On a recent trip to Vermont, I saw firsthand how USDA supports America's nutrition safety net, helping a new generation of Americans get a healthier start in life. Thanks to programs like WIC, participating mothers and their children can look forward to a brighter future.
I began the trip in Burlington to see our Farm to School initiatives in action at a local middle and high school, then enjoyed another treat, interacting with little ones celebrating a Halloween “WICtivity” in Morrisville. Officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, WIC provides low-income new and expectant mothers, babies and children up to age five with good nutrition, resources and health care referrals to ensure they are eating right as they develop and grow. These vital services are delivered through approximately 1,900 local agencies and 10,000 clinic sites throughout the country.
The creativity put into making healthy snacks fun for children and their parents offered a testimony to customer service. The dedicated WIC staff had kids moving and building their own nutritious snacks, while keeping them engaged with their parents. I was invited to join in the fun, as the youngsters learned the value of healthy eating.
WIC has also made great strides increasing breastfeeding rates. To underscore this priority, earlier this summer Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue proclaimed August 1-7 National WIC Breastfeeding Week. Each year, National WIC Breastfeeding Week, in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, promotes and supports breastfeeding as an excellent source of nutrition for most infants, and part of WIC’s mission to make sure that every mother and baby have strong support for the feeding choices that are best for them.
USDA is also working with its partners to ensure WIC provides excellent customer service. The Department recently announced a partnership with Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to partner with local WIC agencies to implement and evaluate innovative strategies in local agencies. Through this cooperative agreement, JHU will support and evaluate local efforts to develop interactive tools, technical resources, and innovative solutions that improve customer service in WIC clinics and ultimately encourage and improve retention of eligible children in WIC.
By providing a solid foundation for mothers and young children, USDA makes good on its promise of good customer service. After all, everyone deserves a healthy start in life.