The Brownwood Women, Infants and Children office held two group birthday parties for local one-year-olds on Tuesday, the first in what will become a monthly celebration to keep infants and mothers engaged with the WIC program beyond the 12-month mark.
    The parties, held in a room at the Brown County Health Department office, featured snacks, party hats, balloons and brief talks about finding WIC-approved products and keeping up with vaccinations.
    Brenda Patek works as a dietician for the Brownwood WIC program. She said participants tend to fall off after one year, when they stop using WIC-provided formula to feed their children.
    “We’re trying to encourage them to continue on with our WIC program,” she said.
    Patek said it was important for mothers to stay engaged and keep learning about their kids’ dietary needs as they grew.
    “Infants from one to two years old actually need more fat in their diets, so we encourage the fat from whole milk,” she said. “A lot of families go either to the extreme that they always give their kids and families whole milk, or they just give them whatever milk. So we really want to emphasize whole milk, because they do need that for growth and development for their bones and teeth.”
    Patek said every parent who attended the party would receive a goody bag filled with information, a hat, a small spoon and a colorful plate with different sections for grains, protein, fruits and vegetables in accordance with the government’s Choose MyPlate program.
    Attendees also received a shopping guide filled with WIC-approved foods. It mentions which specific brands and products parents should look for, as well as the appropriate age range for each food.
    The parties occurred at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday. During the 2 p.m. party, seven one-year-olds and their families sat in the room and listened as Patek walked them through WIC’s new dietary guidelines and a nurse talked about staying up to date with immunizations.
    The partygoers enjoyed snacks like fruit and cheese, and every one-year-old was given a cupcake at the end of the party. The infants also had their pictures taken with a frame commemorating their first birthday.
    Brown County Health Department Director Lisa Dick said the parties were about raising awareness and keeping parents engaged in the WIC program.
    “We just want the moms to know that they’re going to get different items on their [WIC] cards than they have in the past,” Dick said. “Before they turned one it was mainly formula and baby food.”
    She said WIC programs were just one way that the Health Department helped improve health outcomes for the Brownwood community.
    “The main thing that we do, really, is … immunizations,” she said. “We care about the community and we want our community to be involved, so that’s one of the reasons why we’re doing this.”
    The Brownwood WIC will host another party for new one-year-olds next month.