The Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment (CPCM), a center of the University of South Dakota, has been awarded a $1 million grant to implement a WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO). WIC CIAO is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service and aims to support efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative outreach strategies to increase awareness, participation, and benefit redemption in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and reduce disparities in program delivery.

In South Dakota, WIC provided healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding counseling and referrals for 13,725 participants, including 1,647 pregnant and postpartum individuals, 3,020 infants up to 12 months, and 7,983 children up to age 5 every month, on average this fiscal year (10/2022-2/2023).

In 2020, only 50 percent of all eligible individuals nationwide participated in WIC, equating to a shortfall of almost 6 million individuals. The WIC CIAO Project aims to change that by expanding partnerships with community organizations and using community-level data to develop and implement innovative WIC outreach efforts.

Reaching more families with WIC will have positive impacts on the community. WIC has been shown to provide wide-ranging benefits, including longer, safer pregnancies, with fewer premature births and infant deaths; improved dietary outcomes for infants and children; improved maternal health; and improved performance at school, among others. In addition to health benefits, WIC participants showed significant savings in health care costs when compared to non-participants.

WIC CIAO Activities

The project expands partnerships between the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, the Center for Rural Health Improvement, the Department of Public Health at the University of South Dakota, and the South Dakota WIC State Agency.

The development of the project’s outreach strategies are focused on amplifying the voice of parenting adults as evidenced by parents comprising 50 percent of the project’s Advisory Board and the creation of an online platform where parents can share brief personal stories/narratives about WIC. These stories will be analyzed for themes, and shared as part of an outreach strategy to normalize help-seeking behaviors by parenting adults and to push against any stigma or pre-conceived ideas about parents who receive support.

Other WIC outreach efforts include bringing a mobile WIC unit to existing neighborhood cultural events and parks and offering several cross-training opportunities for those working with families who have young children.

Upcoming WIC-CIAO Outreach and Training Events

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If your community or organization is hosting an event that you think could benefit from WIC Outreach, contact [email protected] with event date and time, location, and other details.