Since its establishment in 1977, the Community Bridges WIC Program has been making a significant impact on the lives of families in Santa Cruz County that fall below the Federal Poverty level. Annually, the program serves over 500 pregnant women, 800 breastfeeding women, 1,100 infants, and 3,800 children offering a comprehensive range of services to promote healthy lifestyles both on-site and online.
In a momentous move to recognize and support their innovative, grassroots outreach the federal government has bestowed a generous grant upon Community Bridge’s Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
Selected as one of only 36 programs nationwide, and one of two in California, Community Bridges’ WIC program emerged victorious in the highly competitive WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service.
I want to let families know that WIC is a safe place, that it is easy to apply for services, and that we are here to assist with a variety of services to improve health and well-being. Food access knows no boundaries, nor does it care about citizenship requirements.
— Dana Wagner, WIC Program Director at Community Bridges
Community Bridges plans to use this grant to strengthen the Santa Cruz County WIC program by improving awareness of its benefits and services among immigrant and farmworker populations in Pajaro Valley.
California, home to a significant number of farmworkers in the United States, faces unique challenges, with approximately 75% of its farmworkers being undocumented. Santa Cruz County alone has an estimated 83% of farmworkers lacking legal documentation according to the Center for Farmworker Families.
These statistics have led to declining enrollment over the past decade as immigration-related concerns, language and cultural barriers, transportation, and the digital divide make enrollment all the more intimidating or cumbersome.
To overcome these obstacles and increase enrollment, Community Bridges plans to get creative with their outreach activities and will continue forging new local partnerships.
Outreach activities planned for this project work to demystify enrollment with communication plans like “Bring a Friend to WIC” texting campaign and other communication methods that plan to address concerns about participating in WIC. The grant also allows the team to expand partnerships between the WIC local agency, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Center for Farmworker Families to address barriers and misconceptions from organizations families already rely upon.
Dr. Ann Lopez, Executive Director of the Center for Farmworker Families shares her excitement for the grant sharing, “We are excited that Community Bridges has received this federal award that will focus on outreach to farmworker families and especially the growing population of Indigenous language speakers who are often isolated within the farmworker community. California farmworkers have been subject to loss of work due to droughts and flooding and need to be a focus of outreach efforts to lift up their community.”
Expanding the reach of WIC to more families promises positive transformations across Santa Cruz County such as improved health outcomes for mothers and infants and cost savings in healthcare expenses compared to non-participants. Nationwide, only 50% of eligible individuals participated in WIC in 2020, resulting in a shortfall of nearly 6 million individuals. Now, with the support of the federal grant Community Bridges sets off to develop and implement strategies to increase participation and reduce disparities for Santa Cruz County residents.
See more on Community Bridges’ programming at www.communitybridges.org. And to learn more about the WIC CIAO Project, including awardees and updates, visit hellowic.org and stay tuned for upcoming events and announcements.