Rain fell hard and cold outside the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Women, Infants, and Children program’s Shawnee office in early February. Undeterred, Infant Crisis Services staff served 79 infants during a drive-thru BabyMobile event — a record number for this location.

The CPN WIC program has a long-standing relationship with Infant Crisis Services, an Oklahoma City-based non-profit that supplies formula, food, diapers and clothing to more than 1,200 infants and toddlers each month.

In 2013, the agency launched the BabyMobile to bring its services directly to communities throughout the Oklahoma City metro area and surrounding counties.

“I asked, ‘How far out would you go?’” said CPN WIC Nutrition and Breastfeeding Coordinator Cheryl Richardson.

BabyMobile now travels to CPN WIC’s main office in the FireLake complex near Shawnee, Oklahoma, on the first Tuesday of every month.

Richardson is grateful to partner with BabyMobile, which only adds to the resources WIC can provide to its clients and the community.

She named several factors that contributed to the high number of clients served in February.

Services are provided by Infant Crisis Services a maximum of four times per year for each child. As these visits reset each calendar year, many families may have been newly eligible to receive services in 2023.

Another factor is the ongoing formula shortage brought on by pandemic-driven supply chain issues and a voluntary formula recall in February 2022 by Abbott Nutrition, one of the country’s largest formula producers, and the closure of its production facility in Sturgis, Michigan, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (cpn.news/formula).

Although the situation has improved since the shortage began, many families still find it difficult to access the formula they need.

“The thing about WIC is that we can put it on their card, but if it’s not on the store shelf, they can’t get it,” Richardson said. “And we can have umpteen stores, but if umpteen stores don’t have it, we have parents calling us saying, ‘What am I supposed to feed my baby?’ It’s hard.”

BabyMobile helps to fill in some of the gaps, serving up to 75 infants and toddlers at its monthly drive-thru events in the CPN WIC parking lot and reaching up to 150 children each month at special coronavirus pandemic relief events held in the FireLake Discount Foods parking lot in 2020.

“Sometimes BabyMobile has formula when it’s not on store shelves,” Richardson said.
Additionally, diapers are not covered by WIC benefits — but are provided through BabyMobile.

Clients who are in the process of transferring their benefits from one WIC agency to another, or who are waiting on required documentation, may also find themselves in a gap between services that BabyMobile can help bridge.

WIC provides debit-type cards that can be used to buy specific nutritious foods for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding parents as well as for infants and children up to the age of 5 who are at nutrition risk.

Benefit packages are created by WIC nutritionists for parent and baby in tandem, Richardson explained, and take into consideration allergies, nutritional values and the needs the client expresses to WIC.

Nutrition packages are also dependent on feeding method: breastfeeding parents receive packages exclusively filled with fruits, vegetables, grains and other nutritious foods while families using formula receive packages balanced between nutritious foods in lesser amounts and formula to meet their specific needs.

Additional WIC services include nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support, and various referrals.

CPN WIC serves a seven-county area in Oklahoma, including Pottawatomie, Seminole, Lincoln, Logan, Payne, Oklahoma and Cleveland counties. Tribal members living outside of this service area may be eligible for services through a local tribal or state WIC program.

To schedule an appointment with CPN WIC, call 405-273-3216. Learn more at cpn.news/wic.

Find Infant Crisis Services online at infantcrisis.org.