A month from now, the watershed November elections will decide not only the long-term future of the WIC Program, but a great deal else: the direction of the economy, the fate of the middle class, and the future of California. CWA is participating in a campaign called Vote With Your Mission to keep you informed and engaged in our great democracy.
Take these steps to get inspired, get informed and then rock your vote!
- Start with this sensational music video from Let One Voice Emerge and make sure you register to vote by October 22 – you can register online.
- Help CWA make WIC an election year issue with our WE NEED WIC Electoral Campaign. Ask all candidates for Congressional office where they stand on two key WIC policy issues!
- Bookmark the League of Women Voters (LWV) of California Education Fund webpage. Their Easy Voter Guide is a handy educational tool for new and busy voters. It’s available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean!
- What’s on your local ballot? Go to www.smartvoter.org, type in your address, and get your polling place and the list of races on your ballot, along with links to candidate statements and summaries of propositions.
- CWA supports Proposition 30 which is an opportunity to increase state revenues at a time when budget cuts have targeted safety net programs that are critical to low-income Californians. Read straightforward, nonpartisan analysis of all the ballot measures on LWV’s Pros & Cons page.
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"As I learned more about WIC as a CWA Graduate Student Intern this summer, I began to wonder: Could WIC play a role in 'ground-truthing' the controversy about 'food deserts?'" --
, UC Berkeley Graduate Student Intern
Oases in “Food Deserts”
WIC-authorized grocery stores play an important role in improving food environments in low-income communities. All stores participating in the WIC program are required to stock a minimum set of specific WIC foods, including fresh produce, dairy products and whole grains. Thousands of small, medium, and large WIC-authorized vendors across California thus increase the availability of nutritious food for everyone living in low-income neighborhoods, because they stock and sell healthy WIC-eligible foods to both WIC and non-WIC participants.
A few years ago, a landmark USDA study defined a “food desert” as an area where shoppers have to travel more than one mile (for urban communities) or ten miles (for rural communities) to purchase groceries at a supermarket or large grocery store. The study mapped the areas, and estimated that more than 23 million Americans lived in them. Does California have food deserts? According to USDA’s Food Desert Locator, we do. The Locator estimates that nearly 440,000 low-income Californians have poor access to supermarkets.
However, a few months ago, a widely-quoted New York Times article questioned the existence of “so-called food deserts,”
We know that exclusive breastfeeding protects babies from excessive early weight gain and so can prevent child obesity. We also know that breastfeeding rates have significantly increased in California WIC. So what?
WIC researchers in Los Angeles looked at five years of data on more than 70,000 WIC infants originally enrolled in 2004-05. Obesity rates of WIC kids who were breastfed as infants were found to be significantly lower (by 23%) than among those who were formula-fed. Moreover, babies who were exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months were even less likely to be overweight as preschoolers:
HIGHER BREASTFEEDING RATES CAN REDUCE OBESITY
WIC Children who began life being fully breastfed
had the lowest rates of obesity at age four.
Children fed only formula had the highest rates of obesity.
For WIC practitioners and policymakers looking for ways to address the obesity epidemic, this is a very big deal. State data show that between 2003 and 2011, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding among California WIC moms rose by over 27% in the first month after birth, and by nearly 7% for six-month-olds! If this trend continues, early childhood obesity rates will begin to decline—and WIC will directly contribute to lowering the Weight of the Nation.
Tell Congress to Fund WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors & Oppose Congressional Intervention in WIC Food Packages!
On June 19, the House Appropriations Committee passed a FY 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill, with three very troubling components:
- Inadequate funding. The bill funds WIC at $6.922 billion, which is $119 million short of the President’s budget request. The White House has threatened a veto due in part to this inadequate funding level.
- Peer Counselors Eliminated. The bill sets no funding aside for breastfeeding peer counselors and related activities, MIS/EBT, or Infrastructure, all of which had been included in the Senate version of the bill. The potential loss of breastfeeding support funds, in particular, could immediately and negatively impact breastfeeding rates and positive health outcomes, not to mention badly needed jobs in hard-hit communities
- Spuds Sell-Out. Despite broad objections from WIC and public health community, as well as Democratic members, the Committee approved an amendment requiring USDA to include white potatoes in the WIC food packages. This attempt to interfere with impartial and evidence-based WIC policymaking marks a troubling new trend of politicizing WIC decisions due to special interest pressures, such as from the potato industry.
The House Ag Appropriations bill will go to the floor in a few weeks.
Please take Action before July 9! Tell Congress to fund WIC breastfeeding peer counselors and to stay out of the science of the WIC food packages!
- Sign on here to support NWA’s Joint Statement Urging Support of $60 million for WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors in FY 2013 to distribute to each member of the House.
- Reach out to your state and local partners (State Associations, hospitals, non-profits, health care practices, health groups) and ask them to sign on!
- Click here to send your representative a message or call the Capitol switchboard using NWA’s toll-free number 1-855-HELP-WIC (1-855-435-7942) to urge them 1) to include $60 million in breastfeeding peer counselor funding for WIC in FY 2013 that is not restricted by caseload needs, and 2) oppose efforts to interfere in the scientific process of determining WIC food packages!
Questions? Call Donna at CWA or email her at
In the past week, the airwaves and blogosphere have been inundated with new research, graphic images, and passionate and often conflicting opinions regarding approaches to parenting, breastfeeding and obesity prevention. Since these are core issues for WIC, thoughtful practitioners may be asking themselves how WIC fits into the national conversation.
WIC is unique as a place-based intervention with deep roots in almost every low-income community. And WIC Works! Healthy WIC foods have improved food access for participants, as well as the grocery landscape for all shoppers. At the same time, WIC’s direct nutrition services shape and change individual behaviors. Evidence shows that our counseling and classes, coordinated health messaging, and peer-to-peer breastfeeding support improve healthy eating habits and lower obesity rates.
The WIC miracle starts with sitting down, in well-worn and often gritty clinics, face-to-face and listening to what parents need. It involves accepting each mother (or dad!) for who s/he is, and providing accurate information and a large toolbox to best equip parents for all the many challenges and decisions they’ll face. Our Platinum service approach emphasizes the importance of honoring these decisions and empowering families to carry them out. With that base of trust and respect, WIC parents know they can reach out to WIC staff when they need to.
WIC families are eating healthier foods, breastfeeding is up and obesity is declining. What do moms have to say? They say the healthy foods are what their family needs, the WIC staff and breastfeeding peer counselors help them with their breastfeeding goals, and they now have a better understanding of how to read their baby’s cues.
Whatever the media hype and parenting punditry, WIC keeps the focus on our common, daily goal: healthy and happy parents, babies and communities. WIC is on the right track! Stay the course!
The California WIC community is headed to our 20th Annual Conference next week. Aside from substantive trainings, important cross-program networking and inspiring fun, the CWA Annual Meeting has another very important purpose: creating and strengthening critical WIC partnerships.
WIC could not effectively function without the complex network of formal and informal partnerships upon which it is built. Federal, state and local WIC administrators partner with each other to fund, manage and provide critical nutrition services to our most important customers (and partners!): WIC families. Thousands of grocers, food manufacturers, bankers, and farmers partner with WIC to provide healthy food benefits. Local WIC agencies partner with hospitals, medical providers, public health, and community organizations to protect and improve participants’ health.
As part of our long and fruitful collaboration with the California WIC Division, CWA has created a conference where WIC’s amazing and diverse group of partners gather. Once a year, we get to know each other better, share WIC innovations and challenges, and peek into the future of our dynamic and entrepreneurial program.
This year, we challenge each of you to find a NEW partner among the lively mix here at the Conference – or in your own back yard. How will you lead and collaborate with your partners to improve WIC services and, by doing that, the nation’s health?
Enjoy this year’s opportunities to expand your network for a Platinum WIC!