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WIC ʻOhana Makeke (Family Market) at Waimānalo Health Center: An Early Childhood Education Food Access Pilot Project

In Hawaiʻi, one in every ten mothers will have gestational diabetes during their pregnancy and one in every seven mothers will have high blood pressure during their pregnancy (PRAMS, 2021). One way to manage these potentially poor outcomes is through access to locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those found at our statewide farmerʻs markets and also those that are native and culturally-specific to the different Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) ethnicities. Consumption of fruits and vegetables can have positive health outcomes and can lower rates of chronic obesity and other health risks.

Three in ten mothers in Hawaiʻi participate in the WIC Program (PRAMS, 2021). The WIC program is a bridge for qualifying mothers and their children up to age five to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, milk, yogurt, whole grains, breastfeeding & nutrition support, social services and provider referrals to a plethora of maternal & child programs. In Hawaiʻi, over half the babies born each year qualify for WIC benefits.

The WIC program in Waimānalo serves one of the densest populations of Native Hawaiians in the world, according to the 2010 US government census (OHA Data Book, 2016). Annually, approximately 150 babies are delivered by a parent with a Waimānalo address (PRAMS, 2019)

The Waimānalo WIC program supports an active caseload of around 800 total participants, including mothers and children up to age five. WIC benefits are now accessible in the form of a card, similar to SNAP benefits, called e-WIC.

At the end of 2021, Waimānalo Health Centerʻs WIC program became interested in learning more about the DOH 2103 Health Equity Grant, particularly the WIC + early childhood education program under strategy 8. Waimānalo Health Center had systems and personnel in place to shape the needs of this strategy into something the WIC community needed in the form of food security, nutrition education, and food sovereignty. 

HIPHI partnered with Waimānalo Health Center and Farm Link in early 2022 to deliver an on-site produce distribution presented in a “farmerʻs market” style. Project offerings include maternal and postpartum/breastfeeding nutrition education classes, educational information, food source and value of the distributed produce, Mālama Kauaʻi’s “Garden to Grindz” recipe guidebook, diapers, and resource services such as WIC and  Preschool Open Doors eligibility and enrollment information and car seat safety checkpoint. 

In response to the closure of the Kāneʻohe WIC office in 2023, service expansion sites at Kahuku Medical Center and KEY Project were established in 2023 to better serve the island-wide WIC community.

The project is currently looking to discover and implement sustainable efforts to continue beyond the April 2024 funding capacity. This is being accomplished through intentional relationship building with other community health and medical centers in the Koʻolau Poko and Koʻolau Loa regions of Oʻahu for the purpose of network strengthening and the leveraging of existing individual organizational resources. The desired outcome is the establishment of a regional community food system component that increases equitable access to fresh, local produce for women, young children, and their families.

WIC ʻOhana Makeke at Waimānalo Health Center and Kahuku Medical Center
Produce Information and Postpartum Nutrition Education

For further details, please contact:

Amber Granite
AGranite@waimanalohealth.org
Waimānalo Health Center
WIC Program Supervisor

Dana Ciacci
dana@hiphi.org
Hawai‘i Public Health Institute
Project Manager

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