OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma – The Oklahoma City Zoo recently announced a new discount pilot program for members of the tribal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Those with a WIC program card and a valid photo ID will receive a $3 general zoo admission for themself and three additional guests.
The WIC program is federally funded and has offices within tribes like the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. The MCN WIC’s purpose is to provide supplemental foods and nutrition education at no cost to young mothers and children residing in Oklahoma.
Nutrition on the reservation has been a long standing issue among tribes. Native Americans have historically faced challenges since removal in regard to facing health problems and simply having access to food with nutritional value.
MCN WIC program director Katura Bunner oversees its 12 sites that serve the nation. Her department is crucial in providing nutritional foods in areas of the reservation that need it most. This is especially crucial for young families that need nutrition during critical times of physical growth and development.
“We provide a nutritional food package based on high-risk areas that are frequently seen in diets,” Bunner said. “Any type of nutritional risk based on evaluation.”
Nutritional risks are categorized in two major types; medically or diet based. Medical-based risks include anemia, underweight, or a history of pregnancy complications. Diet-based risks include consuming foods that are low in nutritional value and high in sodium, fat or sugar.
The tribal WIC program serves women who are either pregnant, postpartum or who are breastfeeding. It also serves young children up to the age of five.
Another service that is provided for program participants are monthly food benefits which includes a cash benefit for fresh produce options. Nutrition education is provided alongside food packages to inform participants on how to keep on top of their family’s health and diet.
Breastfeeding counseling is another important resource provided by the department and is available 24/7. This allows first-time mothers to face obstacles that may be difficult to overcome on their own.
The primary need Bunner’s department sees on the reservation is education and counsel.
“Oftentimes we just see that they need a little guidance on what their next step is,” Bunner said. “Whether it’s seeking healthcare, center care that the state of Oklahoma offers for mothers, and of course for newborns connecting them with all available resources (inside and outside of the nation).”
While the need is great for first-time mothers and their newborns, Bunner and her department find the work rewarding because they know they are making a difference across the reservation. Specifically, helping others learn how to help themselves.
“Empowerment, empowering our families to be successful in their child rearing years and continued success for the little ones once they are born,” Bunner said.
According to the Oklahoma City Zoo’s website, the tribal WIC discount is only available at the front zoo window and no reservation is required. The discount can not be used with any other discount or promotion, and can only be applied for same day admission, not future visits. Children ages 0-2 are admitted for free.
The Oklahoma Zoo will continue the tribal WIC discount through March 31. At the end of the month discount access program participation will be taken into account regarding future offerings of tribal WIC discounts.
The MCN WIC program is an equal opportunity employer. Its services are available to everyone and are not restricted to just Muscogee (Creek) Citizens or Native Americans. Further information on MCN WIC services can be found on their website. You can also contact the department at 918-549-2790.