Food Assistance Programs and Lactation

Food assistance programs are initiated to eradicate poverty and malnutrition. Various national governments set them up in association with other civil organizations to provide weaker sections of society access to nutritious food. Nutritious food may be specially required for certain groups of the society, such as the elderly, infants, children in early years of growth, and pregnant and lactating women. If individuals from these groups are in economically backward conditions, where they cannot afford nutritious food, they can rely on food assistance programs. Lactating women need to produce milk to feed and sustain the developing infant. This is six to nine months after childbirth and taxes a lot on the mother’s nutrient resources. To ensure the baby’s health through sufficient and nutritious breastmilk and save the mother from malnutrition, lactating women are advised to consume extra nutrients. They require extra calories, vitamins, proteins, and other minerals than other women. Food assistance programs in the US, such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, ensures that lactating women receive food packages required for adequate nutrient and energy supply.

Food assistance programs
The assurance of nutritious and safe food to all people at all times is known as food security. Food security cannot be achieved in a country merely by implementing policies. There will always be a section of the society that cannot function by themselves in their social environment. Such individuals would be assistance from government agencies to ensure long-term food security. Food assistance programs are thus set up in various countries by their respective governments in collaboration with some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteers from the society. They are aimed at enhancing the nutritional well-being of citizens with no access to nutritious food. In the United States, various federal food assistance programs have been set up to take care of the needs of different categories of individuals and groups. Supplemental nutrition assistance programs (SNAP), women, infants, and children (WIC), the National School Lunch Program, and other programs are available. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to help low-income families supplement their food budgets to buy healthful food and strive toward self-sufficiency. WIC provides additional foods, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals to low-income mothers, babies, and children up to five. These include the child nutrition program, nutrition programs for seniors above 60 years, and the women, infants, and children program aimed at low-income women and children.

Lactation and nutrition
Lactation is the period of 6-9 months after pregnancy when the mother feeds the baby with breastmilk. During this phase, the baby derives most nutrients from the mother’s milk. Thus, the mother needs to ensure she receives a sufficient nutrient supply. The mother requires nutrients both for her body and for the nourishment of the baby. Inadequacy in the nutrients can affect the development of the baby, as well the mother’s health. Without necessary nutrients, the production of breast milk may be reduced. While a healthy mother secretes about 850 milliliters (mL) of milk per day, on average, a malnourished mother secretes only an average of 400 mL per day. Lactating mothers require an additional energy intake of 550 kilocalories. They require extra protein available in eggs, dairy products, meat, and cereal pulses. Essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are other necessary nutrients to be consumed in adequate quantities. About 30 mg calcium is secreted out of the mother’s body with every 100 mL of breastmilk. This quantity needs to be restored by consuming calcium-rich foods.

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