October 12, 2004
First Lady Celebrates 30th Anniversary of WIC Nutrition Program
“The opportunity to lay the foundation for good health and nutrition begins in the first years of life,” the First Lady said. “That is why WIC is such an important part of our campaign to improve the health of Maine people and why I am so proud to have been a small part of that effort.”
WIC provides food, nutrition counseling and access to health services to low-income women and children. It was designed by Congress to be an adjunct to health care and provide supplemental foods during critical times of growth and development. There are approximately 37,000 women, infants and children in Maine that are served each year.
Ron Bansmer, the Director of HHS’ WIC Program, noted that WIC fulfills an important dual role of providing families food benefits and improving their overall health. “Part of the reason WIC has been so successful over the past three decades is that the program focuses on both healthy foods and healthy behaviors,” Bansmer said. “That creates a vital link for recipients into the health care system.”
The program contracts with nine private health and social service agencies in approximately 110 sites throughout the State. WIC recipients are issued food instruments that can be redeemed at approximately 300 stores statewide. They also receive important health care assistance related to the first years of childhood including height/weight measurements, hematocrit/hemoglobin tests, dietary assessment and nutrition education.
In particular, WIC program staff encourage new mothers to breastfeed their new children and assist them in persevering in that effort. Nearly 40% of women in Maine who breastfed their babies after delivery stopped breastfeeding within 3 months.
Shawn Yardley, Director of the Bangor Department of Health and Welfare, the WIC agency for the Penobscot and Piscataquis County Region, noted the added significance in having the First Lady present to mark the 30th birthday of the program. " WIC is an important part of our effort to serve low-income women and children in need in northern Maine,” Yardley said. “Karen Baldacci was a big part of that effort when she worked here and she continues to be a big part of that effort today. We are honored to have her here to usher in the next 30 years of this program."
The Bangor WIC Program recognized six organizations that donate space so that the WIC Program can be held in their community. They include the Bangor Housing Authority, Dover-Foxcroft United Methodist Church, Greenville Church of the Open Bible, Gilford United Methodist Church, Town of Mattawamkeag and Millinocket Baptist Church.
Funding for WIC comes from a categorical grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Maine receives approximately $8 million in food funds, $4.5 million in administrative funds and $3 million in infant formula rebates.
More information about the WIC program is available on the web at www.wicforme.com, or by calling toll free, 800-437-9300 (TTY toll free 800-438-5514).