Welcome to the fifth in our series of “A Day in the Life” photo journals documenting the workdays of our staff and the people we serve.
Shakeyla Paupaw- WIC Nutritionist
Community Resource Center
Shakeyla arrives at the Community Resource Center and gets ready for the day. The WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) office opens at 8:00, and there will be appointments all day long. She takes a few minutes to get things ready in the lab she uses and tidies up her office before the day. “I graduated from Russell Sage two years ago, and started working at WIC that August,” Shakeyla says. “I was always interested in working for WIC. I wanted to take my BS in Nutritional Science and focus on community nutrition, not clinical nutrition.”
The WIC offices are open, and the first appointments of the day start arriving. WIC offers nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and access to healthy food for participants. The program distributes benefits which can be used at designated stores specifically for purchasing nutritious foods and formula including: dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, protein (peanut butter, beans, and tofu), juice, cereals, and baby foods.
Shakeyla and the other nutritionists split the appointments as they come in. Each appointment takes between 15 minutes and 40 minutes depending on the type. Shakeyla’s first appointment of the day is a Nutritional Education appointment with a mother and toddler. During this appointment, Shakeyla checks in with both mother and child, gathering any updates on the child’s health or concerns the mother may have. Shakeyla has three appointments between 8:00 and 9:00am, she tries to be efficient and cognizant of the mothers’ time too, since they likely have other appointments or jobs to get to as well.
Shakeyla has a Health Nutrition Update appointment with a mother and infant. During the appointment, she checks the height and weight of the baby and does a finger poke to check the baby’s iron levels. “The older kids we have a bloodless method we can use after they turn two, but with the babies it’s over so fast and they don’t know to be scared of the lancet,” Shakeyla says. Regardless of the method, everyone gets a sticker as a reward after the iron test. The WIC program is available to mothers and children 0-5 years old. Mothers receive benefits while pregnant, and for six months post-partum, with an additional six months if they are fully or mostly breastfeeding. In addition to offering food benefits, the nutrition resources the program offers are very important to the participants.
Shakeyla has an appointment with a mother that is getting a WIC EBT card for the first time. This appointment takes a bit longer, 30-40 minutes, as Shakeyla goes over how to use the card.
CEO’s WIC program was recently the pilot for a New York State initiative to switch from paper WIC checks to a reusable EBT card. The program rolled out on May 13th. “It’s so much easier for participants and the office,” says Shakeyla. “The card is more current and up-to-date with technology, and with the card is a new WIC2Go App that allows participants to scan foods to see if they are approved, search for participating vendors, and see their balance throughout the month.”
With the old check system, participants had to purchase all items on a check at the same time, and this could lead to food waste. With the EBT card, participants have more control over the timing of their purchases throughout a month. Likewise, the checks could be a cumbersome process at checkout leading to stigma and embarrassment for participants, the EBT card is more discreet and easier to use overall.
There is a lull in the appointments, so Shakeyla takes a few minutes to call no-shows. The nutritionists rotate the calls. The WIC offices are open 8-4:15 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Thursdays they stay late until 6:15. The later hours allow appointments to be convenient for all participants.
Another participant comes in for a Recertification appointment in which Shakeyla takes the height, weight, and nutritional information of her three-year-old child, and does a nutritional assessment. Recertification appointments happen once a year based on the initial application date of the participant. These appointments allow Shakeyla to assess things like the risk for obesity, dietary needs, and more.
Shakeyla eats lunch. The whole office alternates break times to make sure there is coverage.
A pregnant woman comes in for a recertification. Shakeyla has worked with this mother before. “It’s nice that we get to form relationships with our participants over time,” Says Shakeyla, “and it’s so fun to see the babies grow up.” Once certified, most participants are on a three month schedule for visits with a one-month rotational benefit cycle. Shakeyla checks the mother’s iron, and finds that it is a little low. “I like to focus on food first, supplements second,” says Shakeyla, and goes over ways the participant can fit more iron into her diet. WIC has nutritional guidelines available for all ages. The food package given to each participant is dependent on their age; infants get a benefit package based on their breastfeeding status, children and postpartum women get a nutritious food benefit package, and fully to mostly breastfeeding mothers get a larger benefit package to help cover that added nutritional demand on their bodies.
Shakeyla sees a breastfeeding mother and her nine-month-old infant daughter. While going over the new App and EBT system, Shakeyla also gives the mother Farmers Market coupons to use over the summer. Available from June 1st through September, these coupons can be used in many of the farmers markets in the area. Each family member is allotted a certain number of coupons, and WIC provides a list of places to go use them, including local farmers markets, Capital Roots and their veggie mobiles. “A lot of moms ask for more fruit and veggies, and this is a great way that we can offer more.”
A mother with a three-year-old comes in for a nutritional education appointment. The mother is frustrated with her son’s eating habits. “He doesn’t like veggies,” she says. Shakeyla recommends making smoothies with veggies hidden in them. WIC benefits provide yogurts and frozen fruits and vegetables, which are the basics to make a healthy smoothie.
Shakeyla browses through a few webinars from the state on nutrition, babies w/ special needs, breastfeeding and more to find a good one for her next slow day. She averages around 12-15 appointments a day. After selecting a good one, she helps clean the lab rooms, double checks her referrals and notes in the system, and gets ready for the next day before heading home a little after 4:30.
Shakelya lives in Troy and notes how nice it is to run into participants out and about.
What is your favorite part of your job?
“Growing up, my mom was a young mom and used a lot of these resources, so I wanted to give back, knowing that we used it when I was young. I love interacting with the participants, and seeing a child make progress on something they may have been struggling with (weight or iron). It’s nice to see them make improvements every three months or so. I’m really happy working with women and children. The babies are so cute, and sometimes I get hugs from the kids. I feel like I’m making a difference. A program like this helps our families build a foundation for the future. A child can’t always communicate something like low iron, but that’s something that we can help check, and help a parent manage. That’s so important!”
What would you want the community to know about WIC?
“We’re here to help people, and we enjoy helping. I’d hate to think that there are women out there who feel alone and don’t know what resources are available to them in their community. If you’re a new mother who meets the guidelines and is struggling with establishing healthy habits, that’s where WIC can really help you!”