Nutrition as a Social Driver of Health: The Importance of WIC and Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs 

We all know that nutrition is linked to health. The food we eat provides the basic building blocks for our bodies to grow, develop, and function. However, nutrition is not just a biological issue – access to healthy, affordable food is deeply impacted by social and economic factors. That is why federal programs that provide nutritional support are vital public health initiatives. 

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is one such critical program. Established in 1972, WIC provides supplemental foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and healthcare referrals to millions of low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under 5 years old. Research shows WIC leads to better birth outcomes, improved diet quality, and greater use of preventive health services. By investing in the nutritional needs of mothers and young children, WIC helps build a foundation for lifelong health and wellbeing. 

Similarly, nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act, like congregate and home-delivered meals, provide a lifeline to seniors. As people age, nutrition challenges increase due to limited income, disability, chronic disease, and other factors. These programs deliver healthy meals and social connections that seniors may otherwise go without. Adequate food and nutrition helps older adults maintain strength, mobility, and independence – enabling them to continue living in their own homes and communities. 

Meet Mrs. Thompson, a vibrant 72-year-old retiree who frequents one of our senior nutrition sites.  After losing her husband unexpectedly two years ago, she found herself navigating the complexities of widowhood while also struggling with health issues including diabetes and arthritis. As she adjusted to life on her own, Mrs. Thompson encountered challenges in maintaining a healthy diet. Limited by her fixed income, she often had to choose between paying for medication or buying nutritious groceries. However, since discovering our senior nutrition site, Mrs. Thompson’s life has taken a positive turn. Here, she not only receives well-balanced meals but also finds a supportive community that lifts her spirits. Through shared meals and heartfelt conversations with fellow older adults, Mrs. Thompson has found solace and companionship in her grief. The nutrition site has become more than just a place to eat; it’s a sanctuary where Mrs. Thompson feels understood, valued, and cared for. 

Federal nutrition assistance empowers people like Mrs. Thompson to access nutrition, a basic building block of health. Supporting maternal and child health through WIC lays the groundwork for the next generation. Investing in senior nutrition sustains health and delays the need for costlier nursing home care. Ultimately, nutrition is everyone’s concern. When you donate to CoAction, you help us continue providing these critical programs that support Northwest Indiana families across the lifespan.