Four Local WIC Agencies Win Awards for Breastfeeding Programs

Four local WIC agencies were awarded the Loving Support Award of Excellence (LSA) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for exemplary breastfeeding support practices.

The LSA was received by the local WIC programs in Clay, Gaston, New Hanover and Wilson counties.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is funded by the USDA. County health departments, community and rural health centers provide WIC Program services, with support from NCDHHS’ Nutrition Services Branch in the Division of Public Health.

The LSAs highlight successful breastfeeding practices that effectively address breastfeeding barriers via education, support and role modeling with the goal of increasing breastfeeding rates. The intent of the LSA is to provide models and motivate other local WIC agencies to strengthen their breastfeeding promotion and support activities and ultimately increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates among WIC participants.

“Supporting breastfeeding benefits the child, parent, and society, and those benefits continue long after the breastfeeding relationship ends,” said Chiara Phillips, state breastfeeding coordinator with NCDHHS’ Division of Public Health. “These programs recognize that supporting breastfeeding requires a team approach involving the health department, hospitals, health care providers, and community groups to ensure that parents receive the support and information they need to achieve their personal goals.”

The award is given at three levels of performance that build on one another: Gold, Premiere (mid-level), and Elite (highest). This approach recognizes those that are demonstrating model practices, as well as those who are at varying stages of implementing exemplary breastfeeding promotion and support practices.

Clay, Gaston and Wilson counties received the Gold Award and New Hanover County received the Premiere Award. The New Hanover County WIC Program is the only WIC agency in the Southeastern Region to receive this award for 2020. The Southeastern Region encompasses eight states and two tribal organizations.

This is North Carolina’s sixth Gold Premiere Loving Support Award of Excellence since 2018. North Carolina comprises 75% of Gold Premiere Loving Support Award of Excellence Winners for Southeastern Region.

To achieve the Gold award a local WIC Program must have implemented the Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program for a minimum of one year and the breastfeeding peer counselor program must meet all of the required core components of the Food and Nutrition Services’ (FNS) WIC Breastfeeding Model for Peer Counseling for a successful peer counseling program.

In addition, to meeting the criteria of the Gold award, the Gold Premiere award requires performance data. Programs must provide data to show WIC participants are exclusively breastfeeding at a rate that is 15% higher than the previous year and that the most recently published data shows an increase over the previous year, OR the rate of exclusively breastfed infants is at least 25% or higher in the most recently published year of data.

Learn more about WIC and find the WIC Program in your county.

Sarah Young Perkins, Office of Communications