Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 38
Research funding is needed to understand which breastfeeding support
strategies work for each racial and ethnic group. Improvements in
programs based on this research can help raise breastfeeding rates
among women of color, with the understanding that resolving the root
causes of low breastfeeding rates will require more support from the
larger public health field as well as from other sectors.
Additional funding for breastfeeding support is needed; 30 percent
of local WIC agencies do not receive funding to provide it.155 Other
offices receive some support but could offer stronger programs if they
had additional funding.156 157 Additional funding should be allocated
to ensure that peer counselors are paid a living wage and to address
barriers to participation (e.g., lack of transportation or child care)
DID YOU KNOW THAT…
Licensing in the healthcare
community historically excluded,
and to a significant extent
continues to exclude, people of
color? To learn more about this,
see Appendix 5.
Ensure that programs are flexible. Women of color disproportionately work long hours at ten lowest-wage jobs (see
glossary)158 that lack flexibility.159 Flexibility in scheduling breastfeeding support programs is needed.
• WIC data should be centralized so that the impact of its initiatives on racial equity can be assessed. Data collection
should include assessments of many facets of WIC, including the impact of breastfeeding peer counseling on closing the racial
divide in breastfeeding rates, and the impact of offering six additional months of WIC benefits as an incentive to breastfeed.
WHAT CAN THE LARGER PUBLIC HEALTH COMMUNITY DO TO INCREASE
RACIAL EQUITY FOR WIC PARTICIPANTS?
The larger public health community should make a concerted effort to apply a racial equity lens in its
current policies and practices, including providing targeted support to communities of color to reduce
the impacts of racism. The public health community should also advocate for policies that equip
women of color to provide for their families. One example is paid family leave. A study published by
the National Institutes of Health of WIC participants in Hawaii found that most Native Hawaiian women
stopped exclusively breastfeeding once their babies were a week old, primarily because of work
obligations. For more, see the 10 lowest-paying jobs in the glossary.
In addition, appropriate officials should meet with the National Association of Professional and Peer
Lactation Supporters of Color and the CSI National First Food Racial Equity Cohort to develop a plan to
strengthen racial equity in the professions of lactation educator and doula. These efforts will strengthen
maternal health and breastfeeding among women of color. For details on how this can be done, see
SOURCES: “Breast-feeding practices among WIC participants in Hawaii.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11209586
Support the implementation of the report of the National Academics of
Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) as well as other recommendations
that promote flexibility and cultural sensitivity in food packages
The list of WIC-approved foods includes items that meet WIC eligible food federal requirements. But state agencies do not
always authorize all items on the list, and some foods that are culturally important are not on the list. For example, a family
from Peru or Bolivia cannot use WIC benefits to purchase quinoa, a traditional food that contains more protein and dietary
fiber than brown rice. In some states, families cannot buy brown jasmine rice or brown basmati rice.
In 2017, experts from NASEM recommended improvements to the WIC food packages.160 The NASEM report recognizes
the importance of allowing more culturally sensitive food options.
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION