Last week, I attended the first series of WV Think Kids’ Health and Hunger Summit Series conferences, and I have to say I’m so thankful that so many are coming together within our state to discuss food insecurities and healthy food access and its direct correlation with good health. If the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us anything at all that is good, it must be that it has brought the conversation of food insecurity to the forefront. Of course, you can’t think about the goal of good health in association with children/kids without thinking of the WIC program, or at least I can’t. My name is Diane Landy, and I am the TSN/WIC outreach coordinator for the Women, Infants, Children program serving nine counties in Southern West Virginia. As many of you know the Women, Infants, Children program is and has been synonymous with the healthy growth and development of pregnancies, babies, and young children since WIC’s inception in the early 70s.
One of the main veins of discussion during the first Think Kids’ Health and Hunger Summit conference was the stigma attached with food insecurity and how it can even actually prevent someone unable to afford healthy foods from going to food banks or getting help from food assistance programs. I recently had the privilege of being on the planning committee for the National WIC Association’s Biennial Nutrition Education and Breastfeeding Conference Feeding Families, Fueling the Future. I was assigned to work with renowned speaker Clancy Cash-Harrison, MS, RDN, FAND, in getting her to come on board as a speaker during the conference and moderating her session Food Dignity® COVID-19 Era: Challenge the Stigma, Change the Culture.
I encourage everyone to listen/watch Harrison’s TEDx Talk The Shocking Truth About Food Insecurity. Harrison encourages everyone to take a stand and speak out against the social stigma attached to food-assistance programs and points out the many misconceptions about those who need help putting food on the table for their families. The truth is that anyone of us could be a day away from food insecurity. As she says, it only takes a family catastrophe, i.e., the loss of a job, a disability diagnosis, or even for some, the breakdown of the family vehicle. Interesting, too, is Harrison’s eye-opening breakdown of the different types of food-deprived people living within the U.S. based on her own experience as the President of the Al Beech/West Side Food Pantry in Kingston, Pennsylvania. She points out the dangerous misconceptions many have around this topic and challenges the way food insecurity is approached in the United States, her mission, to demolish the stigma around healthy food access.
The pandemic, as would be expected, has brought the topic of food insecurity to the forefront for our nation, and recent statistics confirm that: “hunger in U.S. households almost tripled between 2019 and August of this year, according to an analysis of new data from the Census Bureau and the Department of Agriculture. Even more alarming, the proportion of American children who sometimes do not have enough to eat is now as much as 14 times higher than it was last year” (Schwarz). That being said, I just want to send out a reminder to all that the Special Supplemental Food and Nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children/WIC is alive and well. We haven’t missed a beat since the onset of the pandemic, though we are operating remotely these days, in order to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. We are here to serve pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to the age of five, offering free monthly nutritious food packages, free nutrition education, as well as breastfeeding education and support. Spread the word and check us out here and in the video below:
Diane Landy is the Agency Outreach Coordinator with WIC in Southern WV.