For most of us, the phrase “Don’t forget your vegetables!” brings back childhood memories of our parents' desperation to provide us with a healthy diet. For many of the nation’s most disadvantaged families, however, dinnertime is void of this saying because vegetables are simply too expensive. This is where the WIC program steps in, and a recent review published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has shown that it's making important progress in the goal to provide every child with a healthy start in life.

According to the USDA, the WIC program has had much success in supporting the nutritional needs of the nation’s most vulnerable children. The program is able to reach out to many of those who need it most, providing them with the access to food and information they need to raise a healthy child. The WIC program provides food, nutritional education, and health care referrals for low income pregnant, breast-feeding and nonbreast-feeding postnatal women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk. The program, in fact, promotes and supports breast-feeding among new mothers, since it has been proven to have many nutritional, economical, and emotional benefits for both the mother and the child.

Statistics show that the number of women, infants, and children that the program has been able to reach has soared. In an average month, the program was able to provide assistance to 83 percent of eligible infants, 70 percent of pregnant women, and 76 percent of postpartum women. For the first time in the program's history, the number of women who chose to breast-feed also outnumbered those who chose not to do so.

One of the goals of the program is to stop childhood obesity through the promotion of healthy eating from an early age. A study conducted in Australia found that children from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to become obese. The WIC understands this and everything they can to prevent this trend from continuing in the United States. One way the WIC program is working to reduce obesity rates is by introducing more healthy food options as part of their benefits. These include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. This USDA announcement coincides with National Nutrition Month — a hope for the health of America’s future generation.

Source: O’Dea J, Chiang H, Peralta L. Socioeconomic patterns of overweight, obesity but not thinness persist from childhood to adolescence in a 6-year longitudinal cohort of Australian schoolchildren from 2006-2012. BMC Public Health. 2014.