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USDA Announces Grants to Support State Breastfeeding Programs

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Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon this week announced the release of nearly $60 million in Fiscal Year 2014 funds to WIC agencies in states, territories, and Indian tribal organizations (ITO) in support of breastfeeding peer counselor programs in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The WIC Program, which supports 51 percent of the infants born in the U.S., promotes breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for infants. In Fiscal Year 2012, the program reached a historic milestone when recipients who were breastfeeding outnumbered the women who did not.

“Breastfeeding provides many health, nutritional, economical and emotional benefits to mothers and babies,” Concannon said. “These funds will assist states as they work to improve breastfeeding support for mothers that impart long term health benefits to their infants.”

The primary goal of WIC is to safeguard the health of infants, young children, and women who are pregnant or postpartum. Research has shown that breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition and offers protection against infections and illnesses. Breastfed babies may have reduced health risks such as obesity, asthma, and diabetes later in life. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to reduced risk of postpartum depression, type-2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

Evidence shows that the use of breastfeeding peer counselors increases breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity.

The WIC Peer Counseling Program addresses barriers to breastfeeding that WIC mothers face. Peer counselors are recruited and hired from WIC’s target population of low-income women and undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling through telephone calls or visits in the home, clinic, or hospital.

To prepare staff within the WIC Program to implement and expand breastfeeding peer counseling programs, FNS developed a training system, called “Using Loving Support to Implement Best Practices in Peer Counseling." This curriculum continues to serve as a guide for local programs in designing, building and sustaining peer counseling programs.

WIC state agencies use the grants to continue to implement and administer a peer counseling program that relies on research-based components of the Loving Support Peer Counseling Model. The funds will enable WIC state agencies to build upon and expand their breastfeeding peer counseling implementation plans.

The actual amount provided to the agency will be dependent on the submission and approval of an operational plan.

Each month, WIC provides over 8.6 million low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age five with nutritious, supplemental foods. The program also provides nutrition and breastfeeding education and referrals to health and social services.

More information about the WIC program can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/WIC.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs. In addition to WIC, these programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, National School Lunch Program, and the Summer Food Service Program which together comprise America's nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.

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