New WIC foods promote healthy eating
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Tofu, brown rice, fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods are now available through the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program known as WIC.
The Cabarrus Health Alliance, which serves as the public health department for Cabarrus County, is advocating the new foods and educating WIC participants.
The state added whole-grain breads and cereals, tortillas and a wider variety of beans to the WIC program on Oct. 1. The changes are also meant to meet more cultural preferences.
“The WIC program is especially helpful to families in this economy,” Kathleen Tucker, a registered dietician and director of WIC for the Cabarrus Health Alliance, said in a statement. “Parents want to give their children healthier choices like more fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Now they can.”
Foods available to the 5,200 WIC participants in Cabarrus County are now higher in fiber and lower in fat.
At the WIC office in Kannapolis, families receive cash-value vouchers along with healthy recipes and tips on how to buy and use the healthier foods items.
WIC participants have been taste-testing samples of the new foods.
As concerns about the growing rates of obesity and diabetes continue, health experts said the WIC program needed an overhaul. North Carolina made the changes to the federally funded program.
The healthier version of WIC also encourages more breastfeeding. Mothers who breastfeed their children receive more of the healthy foods than mothers who do not.
Pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum women and infants or children under five years of age who have a medical or nutritional problem and meet the income guidelines are eligible for this program.
“Originally, the WIC foods were meant to eliminate vitamin deficiencies. Today, it’s more a problem of eating too much and not getting enough physical activity that we have to deal with,” Tucker said. “The new foods follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
Rowan County serves more than 3,771 clients in its WIC program, which is more than the state’s approved caseload.
“We have been talking to clients and vendors since July about the new WIC foods. We had to prepare the clients and vendors for the changes that started Oct. 1,” said Rowan Health Director Leonard Wood.
He said there has been no marketing campaign because his department is serving more than the assigned caseload and educating clients as they join the program.
Wood said Rowan Health Department employees have been talking with Salisbury Pediatric Associates directly because they were interested in the WIC program and have worked with their clients.
To learn more, call 704-920-1204 or visit www.cabarrushealth.org.
For more information about the Rowan County WIC program, call 704-216-8797.
Post reporter Shavonne Potts contributed to this story.