One of the most energetic programs at the Bradley County Health Department is funded by a federal grant (through the state), but administered by the local agency.
Information provided to the news media this week, which is National Public Health Week, emphasizes the need and advantages of the Women, Infants and Children Program, which benefits thousands of expectant mothers, babies for their first year of the life, and young children until the age of 5.
Robin Cooley and Natasha Patten are WIC voucher clerks at the health department, distributing funding to young mothers to purchase specific items to formulate a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, and for their youngest children.
Mothers who qualify (by income) will receive nutritional help while they are pregnant. They talk with a nutritionist and receive specific food items. They also get information on an exercise regimen while they are expecting.
Following the birth of their child, they continue in the WIC program for six months (if they are not breast-feeding) and for a year if they elect to breast-feed.
Mothers in the program receive vouchers each week for specific food items, which includes milk, juices and vegetables. The vouchers are good at local retail stores.
The number of mothers and children in the program varies week to week, as participants continue to be added on an ongoing basis. There are usually 30 to 40 mothers in the program at a time.
With the vouchers, mothers can purchase fresh or cut fruit, frozen fruits, vegetables, frozen vegetables, sweet potatoes (fresh or frozen) and organic fruits and vegetables which meet requirements for sugar, fats or oils.
They cannot buy white potatoes, dried fruits and vegetables, pickled vegetables or olives, herbs or spices, fruit/nut mixtures, fruit baskets, party trays, anything from salad bars, baked goods, ornamental or decorative items, chili peppers or squash blossoms.
A pamphlet is provided to each mother listing other items they can buy, and which are not allowed.
Cooley and Patten emphasize the program is an introduction to good nutrition and a wellness lifestyle for new mothers, for babies and for young children as they get a start on life and proper foods for growth.
“Overall it provides nutrition, healthy food and monitors children in their growth patterns, immunizations and overall care,” Cooley said.
She added that the health department has worked with thousands of mothers who qualify for the program.