For more than 40 years the Delaware County Women, Infants and Children’s Program (WIC) has been providing valuable nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, nutritious foods and referrals to thousands of families. WIC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of this population during critical stages of growth and development as well as to improve their long-term health.
In 2014, Delaware County was home to more than 18,544 poor children, with about half living in deep poverty. Each month WIC serves about 9,500 eligible participants, which equals 75 percent of the 13,000 eligible women and children in the county.
Supporting WIC is money well spent. Nationally, half the infants born in the United States rely on WIC to give them a healthy start. For every dollar invested in them, three are saved in health care costs in the baby’s first year of life.
Poor nutrition during pregnancy can adversely affect fetal development and increase pregnancy risks, including preterm births and low birthweight babies. Furthermore, poor nutrition predisposes children to chronic conditions later in life including obesity, cardiovascular disease, bone health conditions, intellectual deficits, immunity problems and diabetes.
To qualify for WIC benefits, applicants must have a medical or nutritional risk, a household gross income less than 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines and be one of the following:
- A woman who has given birth within the last six months
- A woman who is breastfeeding an infant less than 12 months of age
- An Infant or child, including a foster child, who is less than 5 years old
The program provides the following critical services:
- Nutritious foods
- Nutrition counseling
- Breastfeeding information and support
- Health and nutrition screenings
- Referrals to health and social service organizations
- Participation in the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) for certain clients
Since breastfeeding offers many health benefits for both the mother and baby, WIC encourages all mothers-to-be to consider breastfeeding. Mother’s milk is easy to digest and soothes the baby’s stomach. It is the baby’s first immunization. Mother’s milk also helps to protect babies against asthma, infections, allergies and obesity as they grow. Because breastfed babies become healthier children and adults, breastmilk is the mother’s special gift to her baby. WIC moms can call the WIC Breastfeeding Helpline at 484-472-7022 with breastfeeding questions and for support from a Certified Lactation Counselor.
The WIC benefits supplements the foods families buy and can be redeemed at any WIC authorized store. It is designed to include foods that contain protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, peanut butter, cheese, yogurt, eggs, canned or dried beans, cereal, iron-fortified infant formula, infant foods, canned fish and special formulas when medically necessary. In addition, WIC staff can help plan healthy and appealing meals.
The Foundation for Delaware County’s WIC program works closely with numerous nonprofit service organizations, including other programs of The Foundation for Delaware County – Early Head Start and Head Start Programs – and numerous physician practices. WIC finds its clients through an extensive network that includes hospitals and health care providers, public assistance providers, social service agencies, emergency food providers, organizations serving special populations and the homeless, and providers of breastfeeding support.
Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) comment form.
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