USDA Official Visits MetroHealth, WIC Program
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children Program — or, WIC — serves pregnant and breast-feeding women, infants and children up to age five who are at risk due to inadequate nutrition.
Millions of mothers and young children nationwide depend upon WIC as a resource for supplemental foods and nutrition education.
The MetroHealth System is the grantee agency for Cuyahoga County WIC, the second-largest WIC program in Ohio. Each month, more than 31,000 participants are served
Kevin W. Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, recently came to MetroHealth to learn how our System plays a vital role in helping to meet the needs of these families in Cuyahoga County.
During his visit to Cleveland, Concannon met with WIC administrators and medical staff. Representatives from the Office of Representative Marcia Fudge were also part of the meeting.
“It sounds like you’re doing great things,” Concannon said about MetroHealth’s outreach efforts.
Concannon learned the following ways MetroHealth provides outreach to current and potential WIC program participants:
- Jennifer Bailit, MD, MPH, Executive Director, Women & Children’s Patient Care Unit, explained how the women's and children's clinics are a direct connection to reaching potential participants who’d benefit from the WIC program’s supplemental and educational resources.
- John Corlett, Vice President, Government Relations and Community Affairs, discussed how MetroHealth has worked with local farmers’ markets to accept the WIC program, and the economic impact of supporting urban agriculture. He also gave an overview of the System’s proposed Medicaid waiver program, which presents an opportunity to reduce the uninsured rate in Cuyahoga County.
- Barbara Riley, General Manager, Public Health, explained that MetroHealth’s WIC staff works hard to make the program accessible to participants, including offering flexible appointment hours, working closely with daycare centers, and more.
- Susan Conover, Manager, WIC Operations, said the program’s staff aims to make customer service a priority. As a result, “a lot of our families feel comfortable with our staff.”
- Susie Akers, a pediatric dietitian, explained how cooking and exercise classes available through MetroHealth’s Aamoth Family Pediatric Wellness Center, along with Nutrition Services, support building healthier habits for young children.
Concannon also shared news about the national WIC program. He added that his division is leading an effort to promote healthier food options. This includes everything from new school lunch nutrition guidelines to stores that accept WIC being required to offer more fruits and vegetables.
He also said the WIC program’s nationwide attrition rate is being examined more closely.
“We lose kids around 3, 4 and 5 years old,” he said of families eligible for WIC who stop using that program and use other supplemental programs instead.
He added that it’s important to encourage eligible families to stay in the WIC program due to the nutritional benefits it provides.