A helping hand

All smiles during a Breastfeeding Summit last year are the dedicated employees of the Burlington County Women Infants and Children program, who helped raised awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding for young children. Courtesy of the Burlington County Public Information Office

Health Fair April 28 offers free screenings, resource information

After working an eight-hour day for minimum wage, a single mom comes home to unpaid bills on the table, an empty refrigerator, and three hungry young children.

Her mind races looking into the nearly bare cupboard, wondering what she can scrape together for dinner. The children look sad, sensing her worry.

Then she goes to the mailbox where there is a letter from the landlord – a notice to evict.

She puts her head in her hands and wonders where her family will go, and tears stream down her face.

This scene plays out too often already, and will exacerbated May 11 when the federal government officially declares that the public health emergency associated with the COVID 19 pandemic expires bringing an end to a number of federal benefits for families in need.

Yet, for struggling families in Burlington County there is help.

The second annual Bring Health Home Fair will be held Friday, April 28, from 1-5 p.m. at the Department of Human Services building, 795 Woodlane Road, Westampton.

The event will feature health screenings, fitness and health classes, information tables and case management resources for residents and families needing rental and mortgage assistance, utility assistance and more, County Spokesperson David Levinsky said, adding that there will also be food and entertainment “for a family-friendly day focused on health and housing and making sure residents know what help and resources are available.”

The health fair is free and open to the public, and is sponsored by the Burlington County Board of Commissioners, Health Department, Human Services Department and the Burlington County Minority and Equality Rights Task Force.

“Burlington County is known as one of the healthiest communities in America but we continue to work to make improvements and to alleviate the health and housing discrepancies faced by minority and underserved communities,” Commissioner Director Felicia Hopson said.

“Bringing together all these resources under one roof allows residents to easily access important information and programs, get screened and learn more about the benefits of proper nutrition, exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices.”

Burlington County Commissioner Dan O’Connell, the liaison to the Health Department, said the resource fair was another way to connect Burlington County residents with available resources and programs.

“Building healthy communities takes all of us working in partnership and an event like this one can help bring people together,” he said. “It’s a fun afternoon that lets people know about the resources and programs that are available. It also creates opportunities for residents to meet the staffers and volunteers who are actively working to help them and their families.”

As federal pandemic benefits end, another county program is stepping up its efforts to help struggling families and has already seen an increase in need.

The Burlington County Health Department’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) program reported 3,400 women and children received aid through the program this past February, an increase of around 15% compared to February 2022, Levinsky said. In March the
program’s numbers rose again to 3,516 participants.

WIC provides supplemental food, nutrition education, health care referrals and other social services to income-eligible pregnant women, new mothers and children 5-years-old and younger.

“As a mom myself, I know the challenges new and expecting mothers face. Making sure new mothers and their children have access to nutritious foods, health care and other assistance is one of our most important County services,” Hopson said.

“The Health Department and WIC staff provide outstanding services to our residents as they continue to enroll more eligible mothers, infants and children with the program. The assistance can make a world of difference for these families.”

Services include supplemental nutrition assistance so parents can purchase foods rich in calcium, protein, iron and fiber.

“Enrolled clients receive their benefits electronically and redeem them with their eWIC card, which can be used like a debit card to purchase healthy foods from numerous New Jersey stores and other authorized locations,” Levinsky said, adding the county WIC program has also boosted support services for breastfeeding mothers and has an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant and three peer counselors on staff.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of a baby’s life by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. Research shows it provides infants with nutrition and supports healthy brain and immune system development, Levinsky said.

“Burlington County is one of the healthiest places to live in America for a lot of reasons and one of them is our WIC program and the great job they do educating new and expecting mothers to help them and their children get off to a healthy start,” O’Connell said. “The programs and support offered by WIC are completely free to eligible mothers and children, and we want to encourage as many residents as possible to take advantage of them.”

For information about WIC, visit https://wic.nj.gov/participantportal/en/ or call 609-267 4304.

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