September 06, 2019

USDA recognizes Missouri agencies for exemplary support for breastfeeding mothers

For Immediate Release:
Sept. 6, 2019

Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Chief, Office of Public Information
Missouri DHSS of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Breastfeeding provides countless benefits to both babies and mothers, as well as many benefits to society as a whole, including decreased healthcare costs and increased productivity. While breastfeeding is natural, there is a learning curve for moms and babies, and all mothers benefit from having a supportive environment in which to learn how to feed their babies. Many mothers find success in breastfeeding through education and support from breastfeeding peer counselors and lactation consultants, and providing these resources to mothers is a crucial part of Missouri’s Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). 

During August, which is recognized as National Breastfeeding Month, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognized seven Missouri WIC programs with the Loving Support Awards of Excellence. These prestigious awards were established to recognize local agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities.

Three levels of excellence were recognized and awarded: Gold, Gold Premiere, and Gold Elite. Only local agencies that have operated a peer counseling program for at least one year, and met all of the required core components of the FNS Loving Support© Model for a successful peer counseling program, were eligible. To qualify for the Gold Premiere level, agencies must have programs that include additional evidence-based best practices and show increases in the percent of exclusively breastfed infants over the past year.

Of the 100 WIC local agencies recognized across the country, 26 are located in the Mountain Plains Region. 

Five WIC agencies in Missouri received the Gold award:

Each of these WIC agencies have worked hard to increase the support they provide to Missouri moms. WIC breastfeeding coordinators, peer counselors and other staff work together to offer mothers prenatal breastfeeding classes, moms’ support groups, individual counseling and timely support when moms need a helping hand. These agencies are also working with community partners like hospitals, child care providers, businesses and others to increase support for breastfeeding moms in their communities.

“The Missouri WIC program fully supports all mothers who would like to breastfeed,” said Angela Oesterly, Bureau Chief for Missouri’s DHSS WIC and Nutrition Services. “We are proud of the extra efforts of these local agencies to provide a full range of breastfeeding services to WIC participants who choose breastfeeding to provide a healthy start for their baby. This support empowers our Missouri moms and enables them to be successful.” 

WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women; infants; and children until their fifth birthday. WIC helps to prevent health problems and improve the health of participants through good nutrition and education, and it supplements the diets of participants with nutritious food. Visit the Missouri WIC website to learn more.

Photos from the awards ceremony can be found here.


About the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: The department seeks to be the leader in protecting health and keeping people safe. More information about DHSS can be found at or find us on Facebook and Twitter @HealthyLivingMo.