AUSTIN, Texas — A federal program is helping kids from low-income homes fight obesity, and a new study shows it's working.

The study focused on children enrolled in the "Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children," which is also known as WIC.

The results showed from 2010 to 2016, obesity in children between two to four years of age, who were enrolled in the program, dropped from 15.9% to 13.9%. 

About 73% of states and U.S. territories had lower obesity rates, according to the study. Texas was one of those states.

"We were so excited because we know the program works, so we need to keep working towards that goal because child obesity is still a problem in our country," said Dana Flores, community engagement coordinator at WIC of Austin

WIC is a federal grant program that provides nutritious food, breastfeeding support, healthcare referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding moms and their children under five years old.

Flores said the program started seeing improvements dating back to 2009 when it made changes to the food packages families received. 

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Since then, they've also added benefits for breastfeeding mothers as well as increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables. 

"Austin Public Health also partners with farmers markets where we are providing families with the option to use their WIC benefits and food stamp benefits to get fresh fruits and veggies locally grown in Austin," Flores said.

She also said it's nice to see the program is making a difference, but they will have a way to go.

“We can definitely help more mothers. We want families to call our WIC clinics to schedule appointments because we do have those services available to them," she explained. 

At the Austin office, they have started cooking classes available to qualified families. In addition, WIC will also roll out mobile clinics in March 2020 to better serve communities who may not have easy access to their services.

The findings found for families using WIC contrast what is happening for the rest of the U.S. 

The study said when you look at kids from two to five years old in other income levels, obesity increased from 8.4% to 13.9% in the same span of time.

"Even small decreases indicate progress for this vulnerable WIC population," the study said. 

In addition to these findings, a representative with WIC said mothers using the program report they have positive changes to their families' diets. Additionally, WIC mothers are returning to school and work while continuing to breastfeed. 

If you're interested in the program, call 512-972-4942 to make an appointment or visit their website. WIC can also be reached via email at wichelp@austintexas.gov.

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