The inaugural National WIC Association (NWA) Fellowship Program consists of four Fellows from across the WIC workforce to learn the WIC legislative and regulatory processes, develop relationships with their respective Congressional delegations, and build grassroots advocacy capacity in their state.
Sarah Younker is an NWA Fellow from Michigan. She is a registered dietitian whose work as a Competent Professional Authority (CPA) with WIC lead her to community outreach. Her work includes teaching nutrition classes, attending health fairs, and working with local coalitions on projects. Sarah is the first of our featured Fellow spotlights and shares below what makes her excited to participate in the program and her favorite parts of working in WIC.
How did you get involved with WIC?
I was a dietetic intern at the St. Joseph County WIC program back in 2015 when I was working to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). I really enjoyed the rotation and once I finished my master’s degree and was looking for work, WIC was always on my mind. The opportunity came during the COVID-19 pandemic when, like many others, I was subject to a job loss and an opportunity at WIC came up around the same time. It was a huge blessing, and I am happy to have found my place with WIC.
What is your favorite part about working in WIC?
I love working with the moms.
I love getting to educate moms on their health and their kids' health. New pregnancies are my favorite because there's so much joy in the room. I also love teaching classes and the many opportunities I get to learn including conferences, webinars, and local group meetings. Being a health professional means being a lifelong learner and WIC has a great atmosphere for that.
What makes you excited to take part in NWA’s Fellowship Program?
I went into the health field because I wanted to do something that made me feel like my work was valuable and that I was serving someone and improving lives. WIC gives me that fulfillment and lights a fire in me because I see so many opportunities for improving the program and helping more people access its' services. We provide monetary benefits through the food package, which is real, tangible, targeted help, and access for people to skilled professionals with nutrition and health knowledge. The fact we can catch something and help a mom find the services she needs is so meaningful and makes it possible for so many moms and kids to get healthcare they might have missed out on otherwise. I want us to accomplish more and serve more people.
What would you want to tell the world about WIC?
While those things are critical, I see the true value of WIC as the community we bring people into. WIC staff provide a listening ear for the fears of a first-time parent, answers to health questions with no need for insurance or payment first, support for breastfeeding in a society that still isn't sure how to handle a parent feeding their baby naturally, and guidance to reach the health goals they have for themselves and their families. WIC is frontline healthcare, making sure moms, dads, and other caretakers have access to a healthcare system that can be confusing and overwhelming through specific referrals and follow-up. WIC is a community of caring professionals and peers, and you can't buy community like this for anything.