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Nevada County WIC program helping moms be their best

​Ten years ago, 33-year-old Mary Olender was a soon-to-be mom with limited resources and even less knowledge about how to feed and care for her unborn child. Olender found the support she needed through the nutrition education courses offered by Nevada County’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Ten years and four healthy children later, Olender herself has taken up the banner of what she calls “mom-to-mom support,” and is now becoming a nutrition counselor herself.

“I had just moved to the area and had no one to ask the things I didn’t know,” Olender said, explaining her first encounter with WIC. “I was physically uncomfortable and I felt isolated, and after the first time I called, they got me an initial appointment where I got so much information about the things I needed to be doing.”



Olender says she had constant support through not only the enrollment process, but throughout her pregnancy and even after each of her children were born. “There was always someone to talk to when I had questions, and that was invaluable,” she said. “I went from miserable to happy and prepared.”

“As a new mom, even if you have support, you feel incredibly alone and scared. My whole job is to make sure these women have someone to talk to…This really is a major resource. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gone to WIC.”Mary Olendernutrition counselor with Nevada County’s Women, Infants and Children

Olender believes that were it not for the consistent communication and teaching she received from her WIC advisers, she would never have known what resources were available to her as a mom.




In addition to education and a connection to health care and other community services, WIC offers checks for buying healthy foods to families with qualifying income. Program Coordinator Debra Wilson says what makes WIC so effective is the strong foundation of support and education, starting with prenatal nutrition and breastfeeding.

“Affordable health care begins with breast-feeding,” Wilson said, noting an emphasis on breast-feeding is of extreme importance to the program because it’s the best way to build not only a healthy nutritional foundation, but also the connection between mom and baby.

“If a mom is able to build and strengthen that bond through nursing, it’s far more likely that she will continue to provide that quality of care to her child,” Wilson said. “Breast-feeding support is the best way to keep mom comfortable and baby healthy. Olender, who decided to become a breast-feeding peer counselor for WIC after nursing four children in five years, says it was one of the best decisions she’s made.

“With my first [baby] I was frustrated and couldn’t even get him to nurse,” Olender said, but Olender was determined. She took all the classes available and talked with her counselor until she finally found success.

Olender says that her educational experiences were what inspired her to become a breast-feeding counselor herself.

“As a new mom, even if you have support, you feel incredibly alone and scared. My whole job is to make sure these women have someone to talk to,” Olender said. “Once you get enrolled, which your counselor helps you with every step of the way, there are so many options, from nutrition and cooking classes to health classes for new parents.

“This really is a major resource,” Olender said. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gone to WIC.”

This article was originally published in the Health and Human Services Agency Stronger Together publication.


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