WIC is important to help moms and children

Hannah Hamilton, Public Health Nutrition Program Director for the Department of Health in Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about Department of Health programs.

WIC, Women, Infants and Children is one program that provides nutrition for moms and babies.

Hamilton said, “WIC is actually a special supplemental nutrition program and we serve low to moderate income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum; and children under the age of five. So basically, what we provide is a combination of nutrition assessment, nutrition counseling and education, breastfeeding promotion and support and also healthy food benefits. All in all of this is provided free to those who qualify.”

March was National Nutrition Month.

Hamilton said, “This year’s theme was beyond the table. So we really kind of focused on the topics around this. We focused a lot on obviously navigating healthy eating, how to reduce food waste, and just eating on a healthy budget, which I know a lot of people are interested in, during this time. So it was a really fun thing to explore and focus on for our clients.”

How does a person apply for assistance with WIC?

Hamilton said, “The best way to apply and get some more information is definitely to call us. We do have a couple of numbers. We have one number for the Tavernier and Marathon locations, you can reach us at the 305-676-3933 number. We can provide more information and schedule you an appointment to come in. We also have a Key West location with a different number that can be reached at 305-676-3852. You can also visit us online we have that information as well. Then also the main health department number we can always direct you to those offices as well.”

An entire team manages the WIC program throughout Monroe County.

Hamilton said, “We have three different locations. We have a Key West office, a Marathon office and a Tavernier office. We do try to be at all the health department locations so we can really access the most clients and help out those who need it. I do have a team of 10 who are amazing. We’re a combination of registered dieticians, breastfeeding care counselors, lactation counselors and help support specialists. So we’re a really great team. I’m really lucky to have that, to be able to offer that to the community.”

There’s also a new member called Willow.

Hamilton said, “Willow is an artificial intelligence assistance. She was recently added to our employee list for WIC, which is really exciting. It is something that we’ve actually been testing as a pilot program in Monroe County, we’ve been testing her. Basically, we just added her to our website, so she can help anyone answer any questions about WIC for people that are interested in the program, or even existing clients to answer educational questions or questions about their food benefits or anything they need to know. So that was really exciting when we got her up and running. She was just added a couple of weeks ago to our website. You just go under programming services and click WIC, and she will pop right up, and you can start interacting with her. What’s really cool about Willow is she is considered a generative artificial intelligence. So basically, she gets smarter over time. So the more questions people ask her, she’ll start to understand what those questions mean and to be able to really provide an individualized experience for each person that interacts with her. She’s very personable, which we really tried to do when the team created her. So we’ve been testing a lot with her and making tweaks. So I’m really excited to offer that and hopefully see more improvements over time.”

Willow also speaks multiple languages.

Hamilton said, “She speaks right now English, Spanish and Haitian Creole, and she eventually will speak even more languages. So that’s really great to offer that.”

There are other programs available to help people.

Hamilton said, “We have a lot of great programs and sometimes people aren’t aware of everything. So I really recommend going on our website, we have a really awesome website now, that has a lot of great information about all the different programs that we offer. Then obviously calling us, we can discuss any program or give you any more information. So we really do have a lot of great programs, not just WIC but Healthy Start, tobacco prevention, a lot of really great programs that people sometimes aren’t aware of. We really are trying to be very innovative, especially with our technology here at the Department of Health. So this was a really huge program for us to offer this AI technology. So we’re really excited to see that grow and flourish. We eventually will also have kiosks at all the locations to be offering Willow in each health department as well. So that’s also coming up.”

For more information, click here: https://monroe.floridahealth.gov/