National WIC Association

Celebrating WIC at USDA's Anniversary Event

October 30, 2014

Remarks Given on the Occasion of the USDA’s Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of WIC 
October 21, 2014
The Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway
President & CEO
National WIC Association

For those of you who may not know us, the National WIC Association (NWA) is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the over 8 million mothers and young children served by WIC, and the 12,000 service provider Agencies who are the front lines of WIC’s invaluable public health nutrition services for the nation’s nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children. I am privileged to have been invited to represent their voices here this morning.

In a world of rising geopolitical challenges, and public health crises stoked by fear that seem to threaten the very existence of humanity; in a domestic environment filled with discordant, disrespectful political discourse, we are rarely presented the opportunity to celebrate that which is righteous, just, and good.

Today we pause to recognize what humankind is really capable of when vision is sowed with seeds of faith, hope, love, generosity, and a commitment to service. We owe a generous debt of gratitude to public health, nutrition, and social justice pioneers who are among us this morning, and the countless saints – some famously known to us and others anonymous – who paved the way for all of us who are here today, to celebrate this important milestone.

For forty years, WIC has transformed the lives of countless mothers and young children, offering them a hand up, not a hand out, on their journey to healthier lives. Many people in this great courtyard are aware, and some can even offer personal testimony, of mothers who have had healthier pregnancies, of babies whose lives were saved, of infants and toddlers who have thrived because of WIC's quality health and nutrition benefits. There is hardly a family in the nation that has not, in some important way, been touched by the helping hearts and hands of WIC.

I know this well, as my own nieces were WIC Breastfed babies. Now they both have graduate degrees, professional careers, are happily married, and raising two healthy Breastfed sons. These are just two examples of countless WIC successes.

From its founding as a formula give-away program, to the nation's Go-To-Breastfeeding program; from an effort to put an end to malnutrition in America to the nation's premiere public health nutrition program - dramatically impacting birth outcomes, infant mortality, immunization rates, and childhood obesity rates - WIC has matured, indeed, grown up over forty years.

To America’s WIC staff, to our partners here at USDA, to our advocacy, nutrition, public health, health-care, producer, and retail collaborating partners – all of you -- can feel tremendous pride in knowing that the work you do as a WIC partner has had, and continues to have, hugely important consequences for our families, friends, and neighbors. It is why so many of us here are called to this important vocation.

Despite WIC's successes, there are a handful of politically powerful in Washington - in “shrink-the-government-at-all-cost” think tanks, in the media, and among our political leaders in Congress - who seek to undo or undermine the good work that WIC has accomplished. Their drive may not be malicious, but the consequences for their promotions, schemes, and actions could be devastating for America’s families.

The National WIC Association’s bipartisan public opinion poll reminds us just how popular WIC is with Americans: 69% of likely 2012 voters highly favored WIC, and the more they learned about WIC, the higher WIC’s favorability rating – moving up to 79%. Most telling, by a two to one margin, American’s across demographics and the political spectrum did not want to cut funding for WIC! Nevertheless, we must remain vigilant and active in telling WIC's science-based story so that Americans will help us protect this invaluable program from senseless, reckless efforts to undermine it.

Though the harvest is plentiful and the laborers in the vineyard may be few, today, we celebrate WIC's amazing story, the lives WIC has transformed, the families WIC Has helped grow, and the dedicated, committed WIC staff and partners who make WIC successes happen each and every day across America.

At the end of each mass I celebrate, I offer this simple blessing – feed the hungry, care for the sick, work for justice, and there you will see the face of love and new creation. From the bottom of my heart, from the staff and board of the National WIC Association, thank you and bless you for all the marvelous work you do on behalf of our nation’s mothers and young children.