Volume 3 | April 2022
The Wonders of WIC
Since its beginnings the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, has provided vital pre- and post-natal services to millions of moms, infants and young children through our state and local partners. The past 3 years refocused attention on just how vital WIC is and shone a light on the people, services, strategies and partnerships that work to serve
WIC families across the Northeast Region. 
The Wonders of WIC is our way of capturing and sharing out your successes, your innovations and your people. In this edition we spotlight another one of the Wonders of WIC…nutrition.
Thank You
From the Desk of
Regional Administrator Lizbeth Silbermann
It is hard to believe that we are entering our third year of life in a pandemic. It has taken a toll on all of us. Everything has changed and we don’t know what normal will look like going forward. One constant has been the dedication, the commitment, and the compassion of WIC staff to ensure the continued delivery of WIC services and nutrition benefits.

The WIC experience changed overnight. You went from providing nutrition and breastfeeding services, almost exclusively in person, to virtual delivery, to a hybrid experience that includes providing services over the phone, by video, online, or in some combination.

It is important to pause for a moment and reflect on all that you have been able to achieve in the face of uncertainty, ever-changing parameters, and the challenges every one of you faced on a personal and professional level.

This issue of the Wonders of WIC is filled with examples of you meeting and rising above the challenges that came at you. I want you to know we have deep respect for you and your work.

On behalf of all of us at the USDA, thank you.
Nutrition Security Champions
USDA celebrates International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC) Day, highlighting the services IBCLCs provide to expectant parents, new mothers and the healthcare team who form their circle of care.

We thank both Certified Lactation Counselors® (CLCs) and IBCLCs working to support WIC moms and families along their breastfeeding journey.
As USDA observes Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, we recognize the vital role these professionals have in guiding those they serve toward preparing more nutritious meals and living healthier lifestyles.

A special acknowledgement to those serving families across the region in the WIC Program.
Spotlight on the WIC Nutritionist
We interviewed a nutritionist in the Massachusetts WIC program to learn about her role in advancing nutrition security and ensuring those nutrition education efforts meet the needs of the diverse audiences she serves.
(Photo courtesy of Angela Brown)
Angela Brown, Nutritionist
Brockton, MA WIC Program
Mom of five Angela Brown has been a nutrition educator since graduating from Hampshire College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science. While she’s worked for a variety of organizations over her career, her dream was to work for WIC.

“Back in 2006, when I had my first child I was a participant in the Quincy WIC Program,” said Brown. “The ladies were phenomenal; they welcomed me and taught me a lot of things as a new parent and as a nutritionist as well—how to speak with clients and connect with them. Ever since I’ve always wanted to work for WIC. I finally got a chance and have been working in the Brockton WIC Program for 4 years now.”

Spotlight on Partnerships
Since 2018, the Connecticut WIC Program has been partnering with Real Dads Forever in support of its Fatherhood Initiative.

“We started out training all their staff around the theme of partnering with family men-why and how,” said Doug Edwards, Founder and Director of Real Dads Forever. “The why part is so important to understand their specific value, especially as it relates to child development and to address any unconscious bias folks may have. Somebody that's been through a bad divorce, suffered abuse or abandonment; there's an innate sense of danger and it's legitimate. So how do you overcome it and develop a good working relationship when a man comes into the WIC office?”

The training covered what dads do to support children socially, emotionally, and economically and to identify the skills and assets unique to dads in their relationships with children and family. “We got into small breakout groups, and it was amazing the ideas that people had, but weren't putting into practice,” said Edwards, “So we came up with strategies and methods for enacting them and they were really excited about it.”  

The New Hampshire WIC Program has been collaborating with TLC Family Resource Center to support families living in Sullivan and Lower Grafton Counties for the past 30 years.

Karen Jameson works as a nurse in TLC’s Family Support Services with six family support specialists providing home-based, long-term service for anybody regardless of income or insurance.

Whenever someone enrolls in TLC’s programs and they’re pregnant, one of the first referrals made is to WIC. “We are giving them the information so they can apply and singing its praises; explaining what the program can do to support them through the pregnancy and beyond,” said Jameson. “We are making sure they understand how to use their benefit card and if they are really struggling, we will go to the grocery store and help them pick out the approved foods. And because of the lack of transportation in this area, TLC will transport enrolled moms to their WIC appointments so they can be seen and often one of our family support specialists will go with them.”

(Photos courtesy of partners featured)
Maine Leads Nation
Phone app connects WIC participants with fresh produce at local farms
Earlier this year, Maine became one of the first states in the nation where WIC participants can use a phone app to get fruit and vegetables from farm stands and farmers markets throughout the
state. Participants can download the mobile-to-mobile app, called Bnft, to redeem benefits for produce from farmers certified for electronic WIC (eWIC) transactions. Find out more and read the full press release here.

“This innovative project will serve as a model across the country and is an example of program modernization efforts to increase access and redemption of benefits in a way that meets people where they are,” said Lizbeth Silbermann, Regional Administrator for US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.
USDA Actions on Nutrition Security

On March 17, during a visit to Columbia University and in celebration of National Nutrition Month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a report detailing USDA's Actions on Nutrition Security. This report highlights USDA's commitment to advancing nutrition security, and the consistent access to safe, nutritious food that supports optimal health and well-being for all Americans.

 "Across the Department we recognize that food and health are inherently intertwined, and we're leaning into our powerful tools to help reduce chronic disease, advance equity and promote overall well-being," said Vilsack. "We look forward to working with our stakeholders to achieve this vision."

If you missed this historic moment, here is a link to the press release and the speech.

Please look at the report, infographic, nutrition security webpage, and the accompanying pages for each pillar: meaningful support, healthy food, collaborative action, and equitable systems.
An integral part of all four pillars is USDA's nutrition assistance programs, which are the most
far-reaching tools available to ensure all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food.

USDA is engaged in several efforts to help improve Americans' diets, including:

  • Modernizing WIC to reach more eligible mothers and their children and better meet their nutritional needs through updated food packages that reflect the recommendations of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Focusing on nutrition education efforts across all its nutrition assistance programs – including SNAP-Ed, WIC breastfeeding support and promotion, and MyPlate – and ensuring they meet the needs of the diverse audiences they serve.
Introducing Dr. Sara Bleich
In January, Sara Bleich, PhD was named Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service.

Dr. Bleich will help lead USDA's engagement with stakeholders in addressing nutrition security in the federal nutrition programs.
Nutrition Month Highlights
Each March across New England, New York and the US Virgin Islands celebrations are held to highlight National Nutrition Month.

Below is a sampling of the events that took place across the region.

(The posts are courtesy of featured social media sites)

Rhode Island
Wood River Health Services posts about creating more healthful habits while respecting our unique bodies, backgrounds and tastes.

@USDANutrition recognizes WIC's role in ensuring babies and children are properly nourished as they develop.
Connecticut Institute for Communities, Inc. posts healthy food tips for infants and children.

US Virgin Islands
USVI WIC staff hold weekly outreach community events, including cooking demos and sampling and the distribution of nutrition education information.

Cooking demos focused on using fruits and vegetables in dishes featuring WIC foods.

New York
Greater Opportunities for Broome and Chenango, Inc uploads a video on YouTube using WIC food items to make Shamrock Smoothie Shakes. Watch here.
Vermont Department of Health posts how WIC nutritionists are there to help families with new ideas for making healthy meals and feeding picky eaters.

New Hampshire
New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Public Information Office tweets about WIC services.
Mass WIC celebrates the many cultures of its staff and participants by posting recipes from local clinics each Wednesday, like this pasta salad from Rosaris Forkey, Springfield North WIC Program.
Western Maine Community Action Inc. celebrates its
IBCLC Amanda.
Spotlight on New York WIC Nutrition Month
Many New York State WIC local agencies took time in March to promote National Nutrition Month's theme “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” Several agencies compiled WIC-approved recipes for participants from different regions to celebrate various cultures. Some developed cookbooks, held contests for participants, created posters for waiting areas, shared social media posts and provided incentive items to participants. NY is proud of its local agencies' commitment to promote these fun activities with their participants. A few highlights follow:
Sun River Health 
Got in the game with nutrition trivia during participants' nutrition education appointments. Correct answers entered them into raffle for a fun prize.

Morris Heights Health Center
Offered a variety of on-site individual and Zoom group meetings with participants, including:
  • virtual cooking demonstrations.
  • virtual indoor fitness activities with kids.
  • virtual supermarket tour on WIC benefits. 
  • WIC trivia.  

Cornerstone Family Healthcare WIC Program 
Recorded five video recipe demonstrations, inspired by different cultures, with ingredients participants may purchase using their WIC benefits. Featured recipes (listed below) included a recipe card, translated into both English and Spanish.
  • Tzatziki.  
  • Black Bean Fajita Skillet.  
  • Tuscan Tuna, White Bean and Avocado Salad. 
  • Ginger Garlic Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry.  
  • Caribbean Rice and Peas.  

Greater Opportunities for Broome and Chenango, Inc.
Visited the Norwich Head Start classroom to highlight healthy foods from different cultures. Staff incorporated a cooking demonstration, featuring a healthy snack, into a nutrition lesson and arts and crafts activity.
Around the Region
Raydiance Cherubin shopping for produce with her CVV/B at Stop and Shop, St. Croix, USVI. Cherubin said, “I am very happy with the increased benefit for fruits and vegetables as it not only allows me to nourish my body as a vegetarian breastfeeding mom, but it also allows me to make a variety of wonderful options for my son as well.”

The Cash-Value Voucher/Benefit (CVV/B) bump for fruits and vegetables will remain at
current levels through
September 30, 2022.
The Bangor WIC clinic, Bangor, ME, has a very active TikTok account, run by Reanna Plourde, which they have found to be a great way to outreach to participants. Follow them on TikTok @wicbangorme.

In Maine, a Child Health Referral Poster now hangs in locations around the state, from WIC clinics and hospitals to fire departments, public libraries, food pantries and more.

The poster has QR codes next to program descriptions, providing an easy way for potential participants to access more information. The poster has been translated into 16 languages.
FNS' regional Supplemental Food Program Branch staff hosts its second annual Ag Day!
Hear from state partners in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island about how they develop and distribute nutrition education for WIC and Senior Farmers Market Program participants.

Click here to watch the presentation.
Select Hannaford stores offer curbside pick up through
  • Shop online.
  • Hannaford fills the order.
  • Drive to the store.
  • Process eWIC payments at the store upon pickup.

This is one example, among others, of WIC and
WIC-authorized retailers reducing programmatic barriers and meeting families where they are.
It is a welcome option for busy families.
In March, WIC was added to the NH Easy Gateway of Services. Now anyone who applies to Medicaid or SNAP through NH Easy and is qualified for WIC will be contacted by local WIC staff to let them know they qualify for WIC benefits as well.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Gateway makes it easy for folks to find out if they qualify and apply for a multitude of benefits. Learn more at https://nheasy.nh.gov/#/
Since 2018 Maine WIC has been conducting monthly lunch and learns for its staff and partners. This year, it partnered with subject-matter experts at the Maine Resilience Building Network to offer a series around trauma informed care and adverse childhood experiences.

Hear speaker Sultana Khan
discuss how the brain works to reinforce unconscious bias and how to develop new ways of thinking. Access it on the ME WIC YouTube channel https://youtu.be/GFTNDHhVjZQ
In St. John, USVI, the Department of Health invited the public to participate in a special health fair in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Using WIC foods, WIC staff made two recipes for clients to sample - zucchini bread and seasoned brown rice.
In Connecticut, East Hartford WIC, a 2021 WIC Breastfeeding Gold Award of Excellence winner, transitioned its popular breastfeeding group class to an interactive virtual platform, in which the peer counselor plays an integral role.
Black Maternal Health Week
Founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) takes place every year from April 11 –17. The theme, “Building for Liberation: Centering Black Mamas, Black Families and Black Systems of Care”, was celebrated across the nation. Below is a sampling of social media amplification across the region.

(The posts are courtesy of featured social media sites)
During Black Maternal Health Week the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition posts about a webinar opportunity - The Unique Challenges of Black Breastfeeding- presented by DRIVE & NIPPs.
Maine CDC tweets about the importance of maternal health and highlights WIC as a resource providing pregnant & postpartum parents with food benefits, support, referrals, & more!

USDA celebrates Black Maternal Health Week by sharing tips on maternal health and connecting moms with WIC.

USDA is committed to promoting and elevating nutrition security and advancing racial equity throughout the federal nutrition programs.
During BMHW, the New York State Department of Health releases a new report on maternal mortality, part of the State's ongoing commitment to address systemic inequities and create safer birth experiences for mothers and families.
Citing the statistic - Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women - Rhode Island Department of Health hosts a discussion on the challenges and opportunities in improving Black maternal health.
Vermont Department of Health joins the movement to change the state of Black maternal health and tweets awareness about the 5th anniversary of BMHW.

Vermont WIC shared resources, from BMMA's social media toolkit, with local WIC offices statewide to share on their individual Facebook pages!
WIC 390
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided USDA with $390 million, available through FY 2024, to carry out outreach, innovation and program modernization efforts to increase participation and redemption of benefits for both WIC and WIC FMNP.

FNS has researched and utilized input provided from a diverse range of stakeholders to develop an administrative framework for the investment of the ARPA funds to fulfill two goals: increase WIC enrollment and retention and reduce disparities in program delivery. FNS will seek to accomplish these goals through the following efforts:

  • Increase enrollment and retention by raising awareness of WIC’s benefits and services.
  • Increase enrollment and retention by certifying people for program benefits in a way that is participant-centered and reduces disparities in program delivery.
  • Reduce disparities in program delivery by improving the shopping experience.
  • Reduce disparities in program delivery by ensuring equitable access to program benefits.

We look forward to working closely with you to make positive, meaningful and long-lasting improvements to WIC and WIC FMNP.

Funding Opportunity
The first opportunity for states to apply for funding is now open; it is for electronic FMNP solutions!
Click here to find out more.
NY and Regional Conferences
In March, the WIC Association of New York State held its 43rd Annual Conference, featuring Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Sara Bleich, USDA FNS Northeast Regional Administrator Lizbeth Silbermann and New York State WIC Director Corie Nadzan. For more information on the conference and information from its general and breakout sessions, contact the NY State WIC Association’s conference platform here.

USDA leadership spoke of WIC being a key partner in promoting and elevating nutrition security across its network of reaching families. USDA recognized New York WIC for not missing a beat in serving families during the pandemic, even in New York City when it was the epicenter of the pandemic. WIC has helped families tackle constantly evolving crises and its innovations drive us toward a stronger, more equitable tomorrow.

Senator Gillibrand thanked program providers and experts from across the state and discussed her longstanding commitment to addressing food insecurity and her efforts to modernize the WIC program to help meet the needs of today’s families.

NY State WIC Director Corie Nadzan recognized the hard work and resilience of staff in the local, regional and central offices in serving families this past year and provided some highlights, including:
  • Caseload participation after a decade of decline, trended up. In just the past year, a 3% increase in participation and a 93% show rate.
  • 80% redemption rate among NY WIC families using CVV/B benefits.
  • Congratulations to NY's seven 2021 WIC Breastfeeding Gold Award of Excellence winners.
  • Statewide outreach via Hunger Solutions New York - social media toolkit available now.
  • NY state chat box Wanda launched and generates 76 referrals to local agencies a week.
  • WIC2Go, mobile app designed to make shopping easier for NYS WIC participants, has more than 400,000 users.
  • Foodlink’s Curbside Market became the first mobile WIC vendor in the nation in 2021, serving families in the Rochester area.
  • WIC Acceptable Foods Card updated and available in 20 languages; reviewed 1,500 foods and approved 500 new UPCs.

Coming soon to NY WIC:
  • Online nutrition education for participants.
  • Farmers market pilot expansion to 20+ farmers.
  • Central online training portal for staff.
In April, USDA's Northeast Region held its annual Nutrition and Breastfeeding Coordinators Meeting. More than 60 subject matter experts from State Agencies across the region convened to share and learn from counterparts about best practices for nutrition services.

USDA’s Deputy Regional Administrator Christine Ruggieri recognized the dedication, commitment, and compassion of WIC staff to ensure the continued delivery of WIC services and benefits during these past years of the pandemic. WIC turned on a dime from providing nutrition and breastfeeding services, almost exclusively in person, to virtual delivery and onto a hybrid experience.

Olivia Deavers, from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, provided a national perspective highlighting:
  • Updated WIC breastfeeding curricula, and breastfeeding support social media messaging.
  • Upcoming proposed rule to revise the WIC food package.
  • WIC Works – the online education, training and resource portal.
  • Plans underway for WIC Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) including a proclamation, infographic, social media posts and 2022 WIC Breastfeeding Award of Excellence awards.

Breakout sessions on equity, substance use and remote services were held and state partner presentations included:
  • Mississippi baby-friendly hospital initiative and the development of an IPE focused on breastfeeding – a free resource aimed at medical students and providers, including WIC staff to enhance and refresh breastfeeding curriculum and outreach to the broader healthcare community.
  • ME WIC Lunch & Learn: Trauma Informed Care and ACEs Series – this 6-part series, with speakers from the Maine Resilience Building Network, focuses on topics around trauma informed care and adverse childhood experiences.
  • CT WIC connecting with the CT Fatherhood Initiative to foster and engage dads in their children’s lives and welcome dads to the WIC family.
Get to Know Your USDA Regional WIC Team
Get to know your Regional WIC Team member - Tyrik Wilson.
(Photo courtesy of Tyrik Wilson)
Tyrik Wilson is a Program Specialist for the Northeast Regional Office WIC Team, as well as the lead Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for the region. Tyrik specializes in Audits and Civil Rights within the WIC Program.

Tyrik came to USDA as a Pathways student, working in the Retail Operations Division, while completing his bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Towson University in Maryland. Tyrik interned with USDA at both the Boston regional office and a local office in Towson, MD. In 2013, after completing the Pathways Program, Tyrik joined USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service full-time in the WIC Program.

Prior to becoming a WIC Program Specialist, Tyrik worked as a senior staff member at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club, in Roxbury, MA, where he enjoyed working with inner-city youth. Tyrik enjoyed mentoring the kids he’d watched grow through the years working there.

During his free time, Tyrik enjoys coaching youth basketball, spending time with close friends and binge-watching a variety of shows from anime to sci-fi movies to dramas.
Resource Spotlight
“We love the fact that they [ChopChop recipes] are affordable and contain simple step-by-step instructions along with eye-catching pictures and graphics.

It is also beneficial that it comes in Spanish. Prior to the pandemic, Osage Nation WIC would use recipes from ChopChop in food demonstrations that we would perform for our clients. Our clients loved that they contained healthy recipes that incorporated WIC foods and were very simple to prepare. 

Since we have not yet been able to start our demos again due to not seeing clients in person, we love that we can provide these magazines/healthy recipes to our clients”.

Amanda Malone, CLC. Nutrition Coordinator, WIC Osage Nation
ChopChop Family
ChopChop Family (www.chopchopfamily.org) is a nonprofit led by its mission to teach kids and families how to cook, eat, and learn about real, nourishing food. They focus on affordable home cooking using uncomplicated, inexpensive ingredients, and teachable skills. To that end, they work with Head Start, WIC and SNAP, Tribal Nations, departments of health and education, like-minded food brands and supermarkets, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Their James Beard award-winning flagship quarterly kids’ cooking magazine, ChopChop is published in both English and Spanish and is at the heart of their work. It’s ad-free and filled with delicious recipes, essential how-to’s, STEAM activities, fun food facts, interactive games, and gorgeous photographs. A new tool, Eatable Alphabet, developed in partnership with the AAP and partially funded by the CDC, is an independent flip-through activity deck for preschoolers, designed to promote early nutrition awareness, sensory experience, and literacy across a range of subjects including food, language, and math.

They also publish a free monthly newsletter—one that’s filled with activities for kids as well as recipes for caregivers looking to stretch their resources, take good care of their families, and turn ingredients into meals. For additional information contact stephanie@chophopfamily.org.
Get Involved
You Can Help Shape the Next Dietary Guidelines...
Public Comment Period Open Until May 16
The process to develop the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030 is kicking off, and we want you to get involved! The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the proposed scientific questions that will inform the next edition of the Dietary Guidelines.
Starting April 15, 2022, HHS and USDA will be requesting public comments on the proposed questions. This is the first of several opportunities for public input on the Dietary Guidelines development process. Written comments on the proposed questions will be accepted from April 15 to May 16, 2022. HHS and USDA will carefully consider all relevant comments in refining the scientific questions.

Learn more by reading Deputy Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services’ blog on kicking off the Dietary Guidelines process.
Share Your Stories/Resources
If you have a story idea or someone you think should be profiled, let us know. If you have resources to share, we can highlight them in future editions. We will be covering all the many aspects of WIC so send forth your input for consideration.

Corrections: (Volume 2) Mount Hope Community Center and Thundermist Health Center host the RI Big Latch On. Children’s Friend and others help promote it, but are not the hosts.

Content Disclaimer: The resources, views and opinions included and expressed are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or endorsement of USDA.

Subscription/Distribution Disclaimer: It is important recipients not forward the Wonders of WIC through their emails, but instead subscribe by sending an email via the link below or share the View as Webpage weblink. Otherwise, the publication will lose its formatting and not appear as it should. This is a glitch in Constant Contact, the system we use to create and distribute our publications. View as Webpage

Having trouble? Email the USDA regional communications office at SM.FN.PA-NERO@usda.gov
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.