Greetings from sunny California!
QuickWIC is in San Francisco for the California WIC Association 2015 conference. The theme for this event is “Plugged in” — and we can’t think of a better backdrop to discuss smartphone WIC.
The pre-conference started with an emphatic “Squawk!” when a group assembled for the Be Present, Inc. leadership session. Their junior member, the 24-year old Jamoyre, unveiled his new rap, “Know Yourself”, which became the conference’s breakout song and an early event highlight.
Sunday’s momentum carried into early Monday morning where, despite a 10-minute line to get coffee, WIC leaders Karen Farley, Laurie True, Christine Nelson, and Douglas Greenaway launched the conference. Karen announced Laurie’s partial retirement and her own ascension to the directorship of the Cal WIC Association. Laurie brought out her usual WIC enthusiasm and reassured us that in addition to her new role at Cal Berkely, she’ll be working for WIC on Fridays.
Chris Nelson spoke confidently and candidly, celebrating the lift of the California WIC moratorium and announcing California’s RFP for digital WIC services. Applause was heard throughout at the upcoming retirement of the ISIS computer system. Douglas Greenaway held the audience transfixed with his 60-minute talk on WIC policy and the challenges on Capitol Hill. Sixty minutes on policy and politics may not sound “transfixing”, but if you’ve ever heard Doug talk about his passion, you’ll understand.
Despite the big names on stage, the highlight of the opening session was the Resource Connection’s Sasha Hernandez sharing her personal WIC story. Voicing her son’s ongoing challenges with breastfeeding, seizures and autism, she connected with everyone in the room.
After a quick break, we launched the workshop sessions. Colorful speakers and leading luminaries hosted talks on topics as far ranging as leadership to lactation ethics. Thus far, highlights have included Dallas-based WIC manager and breastfeeding-rockstar Muswambe Mawambe on “How to bring Dads into WIC”; IBCLC Laurel Wilson’s discussion on the role of epigenetics (and why vaginal birth and breastfeeding trigger events in gene expression! — super interesting and a new science to keep an eye on); and author Jo Ann Hattner dispelling some of our confusion on probiotic vs. prebiotic foods and how to microbiotically colonize your infant’s GI track.
A highly anticipated annual event for the California WIC staff is the Exhibitor’s Hall, which among educators and healthcare workers hosts booths by major food brands and retailers. Local California WIC-only retailer Mother’s Nutrition Center brought a DJ and a salad bar. General Mills sponsored finger sandwiches and a make-your-own burger bar. New to the mix, we welcome Dannon Yogurt and Silk Soy Milk for their first year of attendance as they anticipate their October 1st inclusion into the WIC approved foods list.
Other exhibit hall highlights include Lettuce Be the Change’s cauliflower cupcakes and Kellogg’s cereal trying to get us to “think of cereal as an all day food,” including their cereal snack bar items. Cornflakes, fresh avocado, peanut butter, canned peaches, ginger root, and toasted pumpkin seeds are among the featured ingredients This author was impressed by the creativity, but ultimately his own doing led to his downfall: Special K, yogurt, apples, and cinnamon should not mix. I will probably stick to cereal in the breakfast nook.
All in all, the conference spirit is high and the passion for mothers and infants is palpable. California boasts the nation’s highest WIC penetration rates, serving 62% of all infants in the state. Clearly their culture strives for excellence. It’s no surprise that breastfeeding rates are on the rise in the Golden state. As Robert Lee of the National WIC Association said, “We’re pleased to see WIC on display. Anyone here can see it: WIC works.”