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USDA Food and Nutrition Services Visits WIC Offices in Celebration of 50 Years

Shawn Canegat and Lorna Concepcion receive certificates of recognition. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

It was a day of celebrations Friday for the WIC offices on St. Croix. The USDA Food and Nutrition Services Northeast Region celebrated 50 years of the WIC program in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The WIC program has provided women, infants, and children of the Virgin Islands with nutrition since 1974. It has played a role in assisting low-income women, infants, and children of the Virgin Islands.

“The Virgin Islands has a long-standing history of the program. It is one of the pilot states. We had the honor of meeting with some of the original clients and the first workers,” said Lizbeth Silbermann, the Northeast Regional Administrator for USDA Food and Nutrition Services.

Silbermann had the honor of rewarding WIC employees with certificates. Those who were rewarded were Gloria Carlos and Hilaria Duval, who were both original workers of WIC in 1974, and Linota Perez, who has been with the WIC program for 44 years. Also awarded were Shawn Canegata and Lorna Concepcion. Members of the USDA were also able to meet and interview clients who are third-generation participants of the WIC program, like Lornette Daniel and her daughter Jah-Healla Daniel and her son Naazir Daniel.

Lizbeth Silberman recognizes Gloria Carlos and Hilaria Duval for being original workers of the WIC program since 1974. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

“In my time raising my seven children it came in very helpful. Especially when times are not as good and you really want to provide your children with a nutritious meal.  It is an excellent program that has been put in place especially for mothers who are financially challenged,” Lornette Daniel said about the WIC program.

Jah-Healla Daniel agreed with her mother and said, “I appreciate being able to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for my children. I’m very health conscious so I appreciate the farmers market coupons that they have implemented because I prefer to shop local and get fresh organic fruit and vegetables.”

Lornette and Jah-Healla Daniel and son, represent three generations of WIC recipients. (Source photo by Diana Dias)

Julie Brewer, director of the Community Food Assistant Division or Farm to School, also spoke about the intent of implementing the farm-to-school program in local schools. She said that the work is around supporting child nutrition operators for school meals, summer meals, and child and adult care food meals by helping them source and use locally grown produced foods in their meals.

“We are committed to building a strong and resilient local food system and we know that anchor institutions in their communities can really catalyze that,” Brewer said.

“Food programs also teach their kids where food comes from and why it’s important to care about that. A lot of schools will do food gardens. What it teaches kids is how hard it is to grow food and why we shouldn’t waste it and why it is healthy for our bodies,” she continued.

While at the Agriculture Fair, look out for the USDA Food and Nutrition tent from Saturday to Monday.

“We are very excited about some of the changes. We will be speaking about our traditional summer programs which are in a group setting where kids serve meals in maybe a community center or in a school. There are a couple of new options this year like grab and go or delivery settings for rural settings and the summer EBT program which is a brand-new program that we are hoping to implement nationwide,” Silberman said.

Members of the USDA also got the opportunity to see the status of the newly renovated WIC office located in Frederiksted. The new office will include comfortable upgrades that will enhance participants’ experience when visiting the office. One of the improvements is the kitchen/teaching area. WIC participants will be able to receive food preparation classes. There’s also a family room where mothers can change their infants and breastfeed. When entering and exiting the building, there is also an area designated for play.

Also present were Health Department Commissioner Justa Encarnacion and Assistant Commissioner Ruben Molloy, and other DOH employees responsible for the newly constructed building that is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

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