CSUN Receives Grant to Reach More Families Through Innovative WIC Outreach Efforts

Paper grocery bag with fresh vegetables, fruits, milk and canned goods on wooden backdrop. Food delivery, shopping, donation concept. Healthy food background. Flat lay, copy space. Credit, Candle Photo, iStock.

Credit: Candle Photo, iStock.

California Station University Northridge, in partnership with Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC), has been awarded a $338,201 grant to implement a federal WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project.

The project is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and aims to support efforts to develop, implement and evaluate innovative outreach strategies to increase awareness and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and reduce disparities in program delivery.

“We are proud to partner with NEVHC on this grant to be part of this critical initiative to identify new ways of connecting people to WIC,” said Annette Besnilian, executive director of the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition, and Dietetics, an auxiliary organization in CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development.

The NEVHC and CSUN team was selected through a competitive grant process. The priority populations include the CSUN campus and the African American community, both on the CSUN campus and in NEVHC service area. A satellite WIC office is currently open 15 hours each week in Sequoia Hall Room 113. This is the only WIC office located on any of the 23 CSU campuses.

“Having a WIC office on campus is a valuable resource for CSUN students. In 2018, California State University released a Study of Student Basic Needs report which shows that 41.6% of CSU students reported food insecurity,” Besnilian said.

“Targeting the African American population is also important to our agency,” said Joy Ahrens, director of WIC Program at NEVHC. “This population is more likely to have babies born prematurely or at low birthweight compared to other racial/ethnic groups.”

Northeast Valley Health Corporation serves the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys in northern section of Los Angeles County in California. WIC provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding counseling and referrals for 37,000 participants, including 8,900 pregnant and postpartum individuals, 7,100 infants up to 12 months, and 21,000 children up to age 5.
“Too many women and children in California are missing out on the nutrition they need in order to thrive,” Ahrens said.

In 2020, only 50 percent of all eligible individuals nationwide participated in WIC, equating to a shortfall of almost 6 million individuals. The WIC CIAO Project aims to change that by expanding partnerships with community organizations and using community-level data to develop and implement innovative WIC outreach efforts.
Reaching more families with WIC will have positive impacts on the community, officials said. WIC has been shown to provide wide-ranging benefits, including longer, safer pregnancies, with fewer premature births and infant deaths; improved dietary outcomes for infants and children; improved maternal health; and improved performance at school, among others. In addition to health benefits, WIC participants showed significant savings in health care costs when compared to non-participants.

In total, there are 36 WIC CIAO awardees made up of WIC state and local agencies, including tribal nations, and nonprofit entities and organizations.

WIC CIAO is administered through a USDA cooperative agreement with the Food Research & Action Center, in partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, the Native American Agriculture Fund, and UnidosUS. WIC CIAO is part of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service broader initiative to modernize WIC.

Visit hellowic.org to find out more about the WIC CIAO Project and awardees

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