Ulivia loves being a mother. She is proud of how smart her children are, and that they have never missed a day of school. While her husband works in construction during the day, Ulivia takes care of the home, her three children, and prepares for their fourth child on the way. One particular activity takes up much of her time.
“I cook for six to eight hours a day. My neighborhood only sells junk food, so I have to cook my own food if it is going to be healthy. I don’t have gas or reliable hot water in my home. I just cook on a hot plate and a toaster oven. It can take me four hours to make chicken for my family in that toaster oven. It takes a long time, but providing healthy meals for my family is important. It is hard, but it is important to me.”
It takes a long time, but providing healthy meals for my family is important. It is hard, but it is important to me.
It wasn’t always this way. Ulivia’s family lives in a neighborhood where there are many fast food restaurants and few places to purchase healthful whole foods – often referred to as a “food deserts”. New York City has wide and complex health disparities by race, ethnicity and neighborhoods. Families like the Uivia’s family face a great deal of barriers to eating well, including economic instability and unequal access to healthy and fresh food. In turn, minorities are vulnerable to childhood obesity, and chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
Ulivia believes that it is the support of her Neighborhood WIC Center that has launched her and her family on to a healthier path. Public Health Solution’s WIC program helps 40,000 women and children eat healthy by providing nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and checks to purchase nutritious foods.
“If you don’t have the encouragement and resources, life will get in the way. It is difficult. I am a penny pincher, and everything helps,” Ulivia says. “At the WIC Center, the staff go above and beyond. They took the extra time to explain things to me. They are clearly passionate about what they do.”
WIC counselors encouraged Ulivia to steer away from fast food in her neighborhood and to cook at home. She developed a completely different approach to grocery shopping. She discovered how to meal plan, budget for fresh and healthy foods, and how to read food labels. She learned to eat in moderation, and about better food choices. Today she uses the MyPlate method every day, and often refers to recipes and health education materials she received through WIC. “Now that I know what foods are important for good health, I don’t just throw groceries in my cart. I put a lot of thought into what groceries I buy.”
Over the years, Ulivia has taken advantage of just about every service that her Neighborhood WIC offers. Ulivia had a very difficult time breastfeeding one of her children, which caused her a great deal of stress. She visited a WIC lactation consultant immediately after coming home from the hospital with her newborn. “I went to visit WIC a lot at that time, even when it was not my appointment. I called a lot. I really wanted to breastfeed. My lactation consultant helped me tremendously.”
When one of her daughters become overweight and had an iron deficiency, she made an appointment with a WIC nutritionist. As a result, she learned ways to reduce sugar and fat and increase iron in her daughter’s diet. Ulivia was provided with numerous healthy recipes, and was equipped to have ongoing conversations with her daughter about her diet. Now her daughter’s weight is under control.
WIC set us on a path of good health.
Today, Ulivia’s children are strong, healthy, and continue to flourish in school. She attributes her children’s well-being to diets rich in nutrition early in their childhood. “My children are still benefiting from WIC. I believe they will benefit for their whole lives,” says Ulivia. “I am a role model for them to know how to shop healthy, cook healthy, and eat healthy. WIC set us on a path of good health.”
WIC has proven to be an important investment in the lives of New Yorkers and beyond. Women who participate in WIC give birth to healthier babies, have children with lower risk of obesity, and improved mental development. We are proud to be provide a safety net for New Yorkers in need.
Join us in our mission to make New York City’s most vulnerable communities healthier. Every gift we receive enables us to provide life-changing services to families across the five boroughs. When you commit to supporting Public Health Solutions, you are supporting families like Ulivia’s to thrive.