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Catholic Charities of Buffalo announced today its Women, Infants & Children (WIC) program was awarded a $55,000 Advancing Health Equity to Achieve Diversity (AHEAD) Grant from the National WIC Association. The grant was one of only seven awarded in the country.

Funding will be used to analyze social determinants of health during nutrition counseling and then connect families to the appropriate community resources, as well as to educate the community and local health care providers on how WIC promotes health equity and the services offered.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to develop best practices to address health equity right here in Western New York that, if successful, may be implemented by WIC programs across the country,” said Judette Dahleiden, WIC director, Catholic Charities. “By conducting in-depth counseling, our WIC staff will promote health equity one family at a time with the goal of increasing both the number of participants and retaining families until their child is age five. This will help to ensure children get the health and nutrition resources needed during those crucial developmental years.”

The pilot program launches in September and will run through February 2022. To enhance WIC nutrition counseling, Catholic Charities will train WIC staff on cultural humility, social determinants of health, and health equity. Once trained, nutritionists will provide a social needs screening tool to help WIC staff assess an individual family’s social determinants of health. When the needs are clear, WIC staff can give appropriate referrals to programs and resources offered by both Catholic Charities and in the community that may help that individual family to reach their health equity goals. WIC nutritionists will later check in on how those referrals worked for the family and how the family is doing with their overall health and wellness.

WIC staff will collaborate with Fidelis Care and other community partners and colleges to educate a variety of audiences from health care providers to the general community about its nutrition counseling services and this project.

WIC is a federal nutrition program that supports families to live a healthier life. WIC provides nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support, prenatal and postpartum support, referrals and food benefits for women, infants, and children up to age five.

Catholic Charities WIC program served more than 23,000 families in Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties last year. To find out more details and eligibility requirements, please call Catholic Charities at 716-218-1484.