WIC Overseas: Helping families lead healthier lives

Starting a family or having another child can be a costly life event. A mother may also have questions or concerns about the health and wellness of her child, or even herself.

To combat these costs and uncertainties, the Women, Infants, and Children Overseas program, a Department of Defense nutrition education and supplemental food program, provides multiple benefits that help families lead healthier lives and save money.

Those eligible to be enrolled are children 5 years of age or younger and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or up to six months postpartum.

In order to qualify for enrollment, individuals must be active duty service members, DoD civilian employees, DoD contractors or dependents of the aforementioned who are stationed overseas. Individuals must also meet criteria based on income and household size.

“The income guidelines, which determine the cutoff point for the amount of money a household can make before not qualifying for the program, are the highest in the nation,” said Virginia Johnson, WIC Overseas regional manager. “It takes a few minutes to verify qualification, so we encourage everyone to call.”

Earnings such as cost-of-living adjustments or housing are not factored into the income criteria, so just because someone may have a higher paying position or didn’t qualify in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t qualify here, Johnson said.

One of the program benefits that those who qualify may receive is drafts, which are like vouchers. These vouchers are redeemed at local base commissaries for foods which meet U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines.

“It’s a supplemental food program, so it’s supplementing a little bit from each of the five main food groups – protein, dairy, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” said Holly Dalpias, WIC Overseas, Ramstein team lead.

Program participants are given a shopping guide during their first appointment after enrollment that categorically depicts the allowable food items they can shop for at the commissary.

Other WIC Overseas benefits include nutrition education, breastfeeding support and referrals to other base organizations that support health and wellness.

“We have tons of cookbooks and recipes,” Johnson said. “We do cooking classes and monthly breastfeeding classes, as well.”

Nutrition and health screenings are also a part of the program, aiming to promote women’s health during and after pregnancy, healthier birth weights for babies and reduced anemia rates for children.

“We test the children once a year, starting at age one, and moms one time while they’re pregnant and one time postpartum,” Dalpias said. “We review their hemoglobin or hematocrit levels in order to provide nutritional education to help increase iron levels through nutrition.”

All WIC Overseas counselors are registered nurses, dietitians or other health professionals with nutrition backgrounds.

“Currently at Ramstein, we are all nurses and also Certified Lactation Consultants,” Dalpias said. “Typically it’s nurses or dietitians who are the counselors. All of the WIC Overseas staff members at Ramstein, Baumholder and Kleber Kaserne are either Certified Lactation Consultants or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, which makes us qualified to help participants with breastfeeding questions or concerns.”

Women in the program who are breastfeeding can also take advantage of a hospital-grade breast pump loan service provided by WIC Overseas. The service helps mothers who may not be able to afford breast pumps for the duration of their breastfeeding period.

Supplemental food packages will vary depending on the unique and specific needs of participants.

The mission of WIC Overseas is to promote and support healthy babies, healthy pregnancies and healthy children by providing access to healthy food and lifestyle choices, Johnson said.

To determine eligibility status and possibly enroll in the WIC Overseas program, call one of the offices to do a short pre-screen over the phone: Ramstein Air Base at DSN 480-4466 or commercial 06371-47-4466, Baumholder Clinic Kaserne at DSN 531-3496 or commercial 0611-143-531-3496 or Kleber Kaserne at DSN 541-5141 or commercial