New Research: Providing Both In-Person and Remote Services Makes WIC Participation Easier

A new study conducted by Heluna Health’s PHFE WIC research and evaluation team and colleagues at UC Davis and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Nutrition Policy Institute suggests that a hybrid service model, which includes remote and in-person services, makes it easier for families to participate in the WIC program.

In March 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) granted federal waivers to states through the US Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing WIC agencies with various remote service options. Service changes extended certification periods for children, allowed for remote certification, recertification, and food benefit issuance, and approved alternative WIC food package items. Additionally, WIC staff were able to provide virtual nutrition education and breastfeeding support.

Many participants expressed their satisfaction with remote services and said that remote enrollment was easier than in-person enrollment.

I actually found it (WIC appointments) much…easier (than in the past) because I didn’t have to go into the office…especially if you can’t find a babysitter. So I found it more convenient for me, because I have such a busy schedule because of school. It works perfectly for me.

–WIC Participant

Several WIC agency directors agreed that all waivers and changes should continue after the pandemic.

Research findings show that a hybrid service model will draw and retain more families, and allowing for on-site and remote services proves as an efficient alternative for WIC participants and employees.

This research study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Access the research article via Science Direct here: California WIC Participants’ and Local Agency Directors’ Experiences during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic: A Qualitative Examination – ScienceDirect

Learn more about WIC services, and access WIC’s resources for providers.

PHFE WIC Staff Awarded for Excellent Breastfeeding Promotion and Support

This August in honor of Breastfeeding Month, ten PHFE WIC staff members were honored for their dedication to providing outstanding breastfeeding education and support to WIC parents. During a virtual ceremony, each award recipient shared their thoughts on the importance of breastfeeding and the ways they personally helped parents overcome challenges and achieve their breastfeeding goals. Learn how these Breastfeeding Award recipients provide a nurturing environment for mothers.


Lactation Consultant Awardee

Jessica V. Estrada, IBCLC

Jessica believes in the importance of support and empathy when aiding mothers during their breastfeeding journeys.


Peer Counselor Awardee

Crystal Rodriguez

Crystal steps up for breastfeeding by engaging with mothers on a personal level and being available to support them whenever needed.


WIC Center Supervisor Awardees

Alaina Coffey, MS, RDN

Alaina and her team aim to address the reasons why mothers quit breastfeeding. Resources such as support circles, peer counseling, lactation consultants, and CinnaMoms support circles are used to help mothers make an informed choice on infant feeding.

Connie Yin, RD, IBCLC

Connie believes all families should have an equal opportunity to learn about and make an informed decision on breastfeeding. She and other staff members offer mothers hands-on support to help them succeed.

Cristian Mercado, RDN

Cristian emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding and early education during the first and second trimesters and shares resources offered by WIC.

Kimberly Martinez, MS, RDN

Kimberly and her team provide breastfeeding support to prenatal women by focusing on early guidance. Staff members support parents by listening to their concerns and creating a success plan that will guide them along their journeys.


WIC Center Staff Awardees

Ivette Perez, CLE

As a WIC employee of nearly 32 years, Ivette steps up for breastfeeding by using her own experiences to assist families. She breastfed her own child for three years and currently provides breastfeeding support for her daughter, who has a
1-year-old son.

Angelina Lopez

Angelina has been with WIC for 13 years. She helps mothers reach their breastfeeding goals by creating a safe space and being available to discuss their experiences and concerns.

Isabel Gutierrez

Isabel has worked as a health counselor at WIC for 38 years and has aided breastfeeding mothers for 20 years. She puts herself in their shoes when mothers share their challenges, provides an environment free of judgment, and helps them come up with breastfeeding solutions specific to their circumstances.

Natalie Truong-Nino, BS, CLE

Natalie draws from her own experiences when providing support to mothers, as she has gone through many challenges during her breastfeeding journey. She attributes her own breastfeeding success to WIC, her colleagues, and her family.


PHFE WIC Agency Winner

Ivette Perez, CLE

Congratulations to this year’s award nominees and winners! The compassion and dedication you show make you an invaluable part of the PHFE WIC team and our community!

PHFE WIC’s Blanca Vargas Honored for Impactful Outreach Work

Congratulations to Blanca Vargas, Senior Manager of Operations at PHFE WIC, who recently received the Heluna Health Board of Directors’ Outstanding Achievement Award! This award recognizes individuals, teams, and programs that contribute to a unique, extraordinary, and innovative advancement of Heluna Health’s mission to enhance the health, wellness, and resilience of every community served.

“Outstanding leadership of the PHFE WIC Outreach Department in uniquely challenging times: by pivoting to virtual outreach and her team’s drive to enroll more than 11,000 eligible families in the last year, her tenacity and humanity in reaching out to Afghan refugees and for her legislative outreach efforts.”

– Heluna Health Board of Directors

Over the past six months, Blanca and the PHFE WIC Outreach team worked diligently to enroll Afghan refugee families into the WIC program. These refugees faced many issues, including having no permanent address, lack of transportation, and language barriers. Families were placed at extended stay hotels until permanent accommodations became available. The PHFE WIC Outreach team was able to overcome language barriers with the assistance of caseworkers from refugee organizations who were fluent in Pashto and Dari. Suzanne Kalmbach, Client Services Area Manager, hand-delivered WIC cards directly to families. Outreach staff traveled to where families were staying, and with the support of a translator, signed up 65 refugee families for WIC benefits. Many families traveled as long as three hours to shop for groceries and faced an unfamiliar environment. David Barajas, Outreach Specialist at PHFE WIC, facilitated a live shopping experience to assist them in navigating the grocery store and using their benefits to purchase food.

Special thanks to the PHFE WIC Outreach staff, David Barajas, Emily Mac, Sara Jimenez, Nancy Ballardo, Rosalba Marroquin, Bridgette Kinard, Daisy Moreno, and Grace Huang, for their compassion and perseverance in connecting families to vital resources.

PHFE WIC Outreach Team

Register for WIC’s webinar for providers on August 24!

August is National Breastfeeding Month! Join WIC, Health Net, and L.A. Care Health Plan for a live webinar, “WIC: All Your Questions Answered: From Breastfeeding to Formula Updates to Making Referrals!”  on Wednesday August 24, from 12 pm to 1 pm.

Who Should Attend?

  • Clinicians (i.e.: MDs, PCPs, OBGYNs, NPs, RNs, MAs)
  • Case Managers
  • Front and back-office staff

Questions? Email quality@lacare.org

Speakers

Referring to WIC

Blanca Vargas, MPA, RDN
Senior Manager of Operations at PHFE WIC

Breastfeeding Services

Cindy Clapp, MS, RDN, IBCLC
Deputy Director of Breastfeeding Services at PHFE WIC

Formula Transition and Formula Shortage

Sagrario Nielsen, MS, RDN
Deputy Director of Nutrition Services and Projects at PHFE WIC

WIC Safety Alert

Attention WIC and CalFresh participants!

Your safety is our priority. WIC staff will not go to your home and ask for your information. Please protect yourself from WIC Card and CalFresh EBT scams.

Guard your information! WIC staff will only ask for confidential information during WIC appointments. We will never ask for your PIN, or photos of your WIC card or EBT card number. 

Beware of scammers asking for a picture of your benefits card in exchange for a free phone. WIC is not associated with any free phone services. Learn how you can safely apply for a free or discounted phone with California LifeLine.

All WIC services are by phone, online, or provided at our offices. WIC staff will not visit your home or ask for your information at any time other than your WIC appointments.

Keep your PIN safe! Do not share your EBT card PIN with anyone, including store vendors.

Regularly check your WIC food balance. Text 91997 or call 1-844-4MY-FAMILY to report any missing benefits.

Text 91997 to report any suspicious WIC-related calls or interactions.

CinnaMoms Virtual Summit June 22′

After 3 long years, the CinnaMoms annual summit returned!

On June 16th, CinnaMoms hosted our first ever virtual summit. It was filled with inspiring speakers, informative breakout rooms, and incredible moments. We kicked off the summit with a special welcome from our executive director Kiran Saluja, MPH, RDN and danced our way into breakout sessions led by the CinnaMoms team.

Thank you to the amazing partners from Black Infants and Families Los Angeles, Davion Mauldin and LeHenry Solomon, as well as our very own Ruben Lopez, RDN we were even able to hold space for a fatherhood oriented breakout session. Then, following some fun and games, 10 “SuperCinnaMoms” received recognition from our team and Senator Sydney Kamlager for their dedication to the CinnaMoms community.

All of the excitement, camaraderie, and support left attendees feeling Strong and Empowered!

Here are some words that families shared about the summit.

Click here to see all that we did and learn how you can refer families to CinnaMoms.

#cinnamoms #phfewic #virtualsummit #africanamericanfamilies #supportfamilies #june2022

WIC Supports the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

Show your support for WIC families by urging Congress to reauthorize and expand services through the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act. This bill aims to improve and widen access to child nutrition programs, such as WIC and the National School Lunch Program, to millions of children across the United States. Read more about the act HERE.

How would this bill benefit WIC participants? Improvements to WIC programs include:

  • WIC eligibility for children up to six years old or on the day they begin kindergarten
  • WIC eligibility for postpartum women extended to two years
  • Allows for one certification appointment for multiple children
  • Automatic certification of infants born to pregnant participants
  • Expansion of certification period to two years
  • Expansion of breastfeeding and peer counseling services
  • Funds technology for the Peer Counselor program and fruit and vegetable purchases through the Farmers’ Market Nutritional Program (FMNP)
  • …And much more!

Make your voice heard! Tell Congress to support the #HealthyMealsHealthyKidsAct.