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WIC program teaches healthier eating


The local Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is making strides toward healthier eating.

Mari Willie, dietitian for St. Joseph's Community Health and the WIC program said the program provides nutrition advice and education.

"We work with women who qualify with how to shop for healthy foods and provide recipe ideas," she said.

The program, made available through federal dollars, began offering new healthy food choices last summer. Women receive vouchers that can be used for a specific list of foods.

The approximately 141,000 women, infants and young children statewide participating in the program are able to receive a variety of healthier foods, including fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables; whole grain products such as bread, tortillas, brown rice and oatmeal; jarred baby foods and soy beverages; and tofu.

A woman may qualify if she is pregnant, nursing or has a child under age 5. There are also income guidelines. Women are encouraged to apply by calling the WIC office at 237-5464.

The program has been a great opportunity for teaching people to read food labels, Willie said.

"It really forces them to look at the labels," she said.

Only skim and one-percent milk are offered to all women and children over the age of two. Willie said this has been a difficult change for some people who were used to drinking 2 percent or whole milk.

"They're learning, though," she said.

Willie recalls one family that used vouchers to try new fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods.

The new foods provided by the WIC program follow changes being made by the federal WIC program and reflect the most recent dietary guidelines for Americans. The new choices also encourage breastfeeding, support infant feeding practices recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and are well suited to the food preferences of the diverse populations served by the WIC program.

The new shopping guide includes fewer options for cheese and eggs, Willie said.

The local grocery stores have been very cooperative in working with the WIC program, she said. Stickers are placed in the stores near foods that are WIC approved.

Since 1973, the WIC program has offered participants nutrition assessments, nutrition education, a food package designed to meet their nutrition needs, and health care referrals that have continually resulted in better health outcomes.

For more information about WIC, or to apply for the program, call 237-5464.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561