As Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service, I know that our 15 nutrition assistance programs help a wide variety of people around the country. But there’s nothing like getting out of the office to personally witness the boots on the ground efforts by those who administer and promote our programs on a daily basis. I recently traveled to the FNS Southwest Regional Office in Dallas to meet federal and state personnel and partners and to tour several centers that make up the first line of defense in creating our nation’s safety net against hunger.
One place that I found particularly impressive during my travel was the Dallas Community Baby Café, sponsored by the City of Dallas WIC program. The Women Infants and Children or WIC program provides aid to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding mothers, and their children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. Conveniently co-located next to a WIC clinic that serves over six thousand participants a month, the café is the newest member of a family of 12 centers located around the United States. It provides a relaxed, non-clinical place for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to get advice about lactation from professional and certified consultants free of charge.
Not only are Baby Cafés instrumental to the mission of WIC but in at least one instance the staff has played a life saving role. Mary Jo Williams, a lactation consultant, shared a story about a mother who came to the café a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that she thought her baby was not getting enough oxygen and seemed to have fluid in the lungs. Williams knew this was a serious situation and accompanied the mother and baby to the emergency room where they found out that the baby’s esophagus was not connected to the stomach. Williams told me that it was a blessing to be at the Dallas Community Baby Café and that she felt fortunate to be able to help mothers with their babies.
The café offers one-on-one counseling and group sessions, and moms can share information, breastfeeding problems or just talk with other women going through the same experience. And that’s not all! There is free Wi-Fi, a lounge for dads and a separate area for children with books to read and DVD’s to watch.
Innovative places such as this can be essential for families, and especially mothers. Being a mother can be a challenging time in a woman’s life, and this type of resource is instrumental in promoting healthy breastfeeding. The Food and Nutrition Service is proud to support such an initiative, and it is my hope Community Baby Cafés become commonplace around the country.