The Women, Infants, and Children program is a supplemental nutrition program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Education, food vouchers and referrals are offered, free of charge, to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children younger than five years of age. The goal of the program is to improve the health of this at-risk group.
Requirements and Salary
Registered Dietitians, Degreed Nutritionists and Registered Nurses may be hired as nutritional assistants. A WIC employee who does not possess one of these degrees may qualify for the nutritional assistant position if she has a minimum of a high school diploma, 1,000 hours working for WIC and completion of a nutritional assistant competency exam. In 2012, the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $55,240.
WIC nutritional assistants meet with applicants and review forms and documentation, such as proof of residency and income, to determine eligibility for the program. Assistance is given to applicants completing enrollment forms. An interview is conducted to evaluate dietary habits and medical history. Nutritional assistants schedule appointments for future counseling and classes.
Nutritional assistants use their knowledge of dietary guidelines and disease prevention to evaluate participants’ needs, according to the information gained from the intake application and interview. Personalized nutritional counseling is given. Participants are taught how to plan meals that meet the dietary needs of each member of the family, and prevent health concerns such as obesity.
Breastfeeding is encouraged by nutritional assistants. The health benefits of breastfeeding are explained. Nutritional assistants, who have additional training in lactation and breastfeeding, provide advice and support. If additional help is needed, an assistant may refer the mother to a WIC board certified lactation consultant. Assistants loan breast pumps as necessary and maintain records.
WIC participants are issued vouchers that may be used to purchase food. Each voucher is redeemable for a specific item, such as milk, eggs, cereal, juice, tuna, vegetables, peanut butter, beans or infant formula. Nutritional assistants ensure that participants know how and where to redeem the vouchers. They also provide recipes and menu suggestions incorporating the voucher food items.
Program participants meet with nutritional assistants frequently. During visits, babies and children are weighed and measured, in order to track their progress. Assistants use observation and interviewing to determine family needs and may advise participants about health concerns, such as alcohol or tobacco use. Referrals are given to agencies that can assist in dental care, immunizations and early childhood education.
Nutritional Assistants participate in the creation of educational materials, such as fact sheets on lactose intolerance, gestational diabetes and food safety. In addition to the private nutritional instruction given, assistants teach group classes on topics such as pregnancy nutrition, infant nutrition, how to wean a baby from bottles, physical activity, iron deficiency anemia, smart shopping, gardening and cooking.
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