The Women Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program, a federally funded program funneled through Madera County Public Health, was created to educate pregnant women and new mothers on how they and their young children can eat well and stay healthy.
Today, 9,390 countywide utilize the services, with about 480 participants in Oakhurst. The goals of the program are to decrease pregnancy complications and iron deficiency anemia, to prevent low-birth weight babies, to promote and support breast feeding, and to improve the health of all participants in their growth and development.
Services are available to women who are pregnant, breast feeding, have just had a baby, have a child under age five (includes foster children), and families with low-to-medium income (at 185% or less of the federal poverty level). Given the high cost of living, and salaries remaining stagnant, many working parents can qualify and benefit from this program.
Certified Nutrition Assistant Ana Martinez, who rotates into the Oakhurst site and has been with the county’s WIC program for 13 years, has seen some changes over the years.
“We’ve added more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and yogurt to our food packages, and reduced the amount of juice and milk,” Martinez said.
She added that many are under the misconception that the program offers little more than doling out vouchers. While they do provide food vouchers for the purchase of healthy foods from WIC-authorized vendors, they are so much more.
“WIC is actually very beneficial because it offers so many health services, counseling on disease prevention, iron deficiencies are detected, and the child’s immunizations are kept up-to-date,” Martinez explained.
Along with education of nutrition and proper breast feeding, WIC also offers referrals for medical care.
A pilot program in 1972, WIC came to California in 1974 and to Madera County in 1978 under a private non-profit. In the early 1980s, the program fell under the umbrella of Madera County Public Health, which remains the parent company today.
“This is an important program because we offer nutritional services and education, and give food based on the nutritional content and nutritional need of the child,” WIC Director Elsie Arrambide said. “A woman can come in to the program and walk out with $200 worth of items at no cost - a breast pump with all its accessories, breast pads, breast shields, a carry container ... we’re unique because our services are based on each individual’s needs, and if someone can’t make it in, we will even mail out a food voucher.”
The Oakhurst site, located at 40325 Highway 41, is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., weekdays, closed for lunch 12 - 1 p.m. Details: (559) 658-7456.
Hours of operation for the Madera site, located at 14215 Road 28, are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., weekdays, Wednesdays to 6 p.m., and open through the lunch hour. Details: (559) 675-7623.
Details and guidelines: fns.usda.gov/fr-031816.