Muskegon Co. Public Health Puts New Twist On Federal Health Program

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MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Women, Infants, and Children – or WIC – Program is an income-based, USDA program that provides supplemental amounts of healthy foods for pregnant women and families with children under the age of 5. It’s focus on middle and low-income families.

But Muskegon County WIC Supervisor Jenna Blamer and her staff thought something in the program was lacking.

In April, the department launched the ‘FIT WIC Program.’

For six weeks – two 60-minute-classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays – families of 3-and-4-year-old WIC clients head to the Stevenson Center on Muskegon Community College’s campus.

The course is free to WIC clients.

During the class, the kids spent time learning how to walk, run, and jump. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

“Ask a three-year-old to walk, run, and jump and you’ll see some really surprising ways of doing it,” Blamer says. “It actually is a skill, so the earlier they can perfect that skill, the more likely that later on when they start to pick up sports or other physical activities like shooting a basketball or dribbling a basketball, they’re gonna be successful with it.”

While the kids jump around, parents head to the kitchen where nutritionists help the adults learn new healthy spins on old childhood favorites – like made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese with avocado.

“The fun part is making up names like ‘Hulk Mac and Cheese,'” WIC nutritionist Jon Broek says, “and you have some families actually dress up and really get involved and really make it fun if you really want your kids to like healthy foods.”

“Just make it exciting, make it really fun,” he says. “Make it a whole family event instead of just being the kids watching the parents and never learning it.”

Muskegon County Public Health plans another FIT WIC session in August.

Here’s the FIT WIC recipe for that “Hulk” Mac and Cheese:

8 ounces wagon wheel pasta (whole wheat)
3/4 cup skim milk
1 fully ripened avocado , halved pitted, peeled and diced
1/2 cup thawed frozen peas
3/4 cup diced sharp white cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
In large sauce pot, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat milk until hot; remove from heat, set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup of the avocado for later use. When pasta is almost cooked, in blender, combine remaining avocado, the peas, cheese and lemon juice; gradually add hot milk; blend until smooth.

Drain pasta; return to sauce pot. Stir in cheese sauce; add remaining 1/2 cup diced avocado; toss gently.

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