August 07, 2023

Five Missouri WIC local agencies honored as exemplary breastfeeding peer support programs by USDA


JEFFERSON CITY, MO – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded four WIC local agencies with the 2023 Gold WIC Breastfeeding Award of Excellence for exemplary efforts in supporting breastfeeding WIC mothers. The four agencies are: Carroll County Health Department WIC, Family Care Health Centers WIC, Stone County Health Department WIC and University Health WIC. Saline County Health Department WIC received the Premiere WIC Breastfeeding Award of Excellence.

These awards were announced as part of USDA’s National WIC Breastfeeding Week, celebrated August 1-7. WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children administered by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).

“Breastfeeding has been shown to improve the lives of infants and children as they grow, and breastfeeding support is an important part of WIC,” said Cheryl Kennedy, USDA Food and Nutrition Service regional administrator. “These awards celebrate the impressive work done by local breastfeeding peer counselors in guiding women as they progress through their breastfeeding journeys.”

Breastfeeding provides countless benefits to both babies and mothers, as well as many benefits to society as a whole, including decreased health care 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 WIC.

“The Missouri WIC program fully supports all mothers who would like to breastfeed,” said Lisa Schlientz, DHSS and WIC state breastfeeding coordinator. “We are proud of the extra efforts made by these five 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 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, Premiere and Elite. Agencies are awarded for a four-year period. With the addition of these five agencies, there are currently 15 local agencies awarded in Missouri.

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. Missourians interested in learning about the benefits of WIC may visit WIC.Mo.Gov or call TEL-LINK at 1-800-835-5465 to find the WIC local agency in their county.