August 19, 2021

USDA recognizes exemplary support for breastfeeding mothers

8 WIC local agencies honored as model programs

Media Contact:
Lisa Cox
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded eight WIC local agencies with the 2021 WIC Breastfeeding Award of Excellence for exemplary efforts in supporting breastfeeding WIC mothers. The eight agencies are: Affinia Healthcare, City of St. Joseph Health Department, Columbia/Boone Department of Public Health and Human Services, Laclede County Health Department, Randolph County Health Department, Saline County Health Department, Washington County Health Department, and Webster County Health Unit. These awards were part of USDA’s National WIC Breastfeeding Week, celebrated August 1-7.

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). 

“WIC serves millions of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and their young children,” said Cheryl Kennedy, Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator. “We recognize the hard work and effort that occurs at the State and local levels to provide this important benefit to all WIC participants, and the WIC Breastfeeding Award of Excellence celebrates local agencies that provide exemplary breastfeeding programs and support services.”

“The Missouri WIC program fully supports all mothers who would like to breastfeed,” said Lisa Schlientz, State Breastfeeding Coordinator with Missouri DHSS WIC and Nutrition Services. “We are proud of the extra efforts made by these eight agencies, even during a major public health crisis, 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 agencies that have operated a peer counseling program for at least one year and meet all of the required core components of the WIC Breastfeeding Model for Peer Counseling, including recruiting and hiring from WIC’s target population, and being available to WIC clients outside usual clinic hours, are eligible to apply for the award.

The award program was established to recognize WIC local agencies that have provided exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support activities. Awards highlight successful models and encourage other local agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities and ultimately increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants. Awards are given at three levels of performance: Gold, Gold Premiere, and Gold Elite.

The WIC Program serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, resources on healthy eating including breastfeeding promotion and support, and referrals to health care. More information about the WIC program can be found at 



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