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What is a WIC Nutrition Assistant (WNA)

What is a certified WIC Nutrition Assistant (WNA)? A WNA is a paraprofessional certified in California to perform all or some of the following tasks for WIC program participants: nutrition and health assessment, eligibility determination (certification), prescription of appropriate food packages and vouchers for participants, and individual and group education on a variety of general nutrition topics mostly related to nutrition in pregnancy, post-partum, infancy, and early childhood.

Within the California WIC Program, paraprofessional staff may range from professionals with degrees in fields other than nutrition, e.g. registered nurses to individuals who have little, if any, formal education in nutrition but have received some training by the State or local WIC agency.  The required certification to become a  WNA is competency-based and is standard statewide.  Once certified, WNAs can work at any local WIC agency in California.

How do you become a certified WNA? A WNA must demonstrate mastery of the required  tasks described above needed to certify and educate WIC program participants.  A WNA may initially  work in an entry level position such as phone receptionist, translator for participant counseling sessions, or as a clerk with program operation responsibilities, such as issuing food instruments. Mastery of the required tasks are demonstrated and assessed through observations, written quizzes, file audits (review of case records), and interviews.  A WNA can receive the training necessary to become certified in many ways: group training (WIC provided), self paced methods (with oversight from the local WIC agency), the WIC Training Manual, videos and other materials, mentoring with a WIC staff person, workshops and other outside training events (often used to supplement other training.)  Community college nutrition courses can provide an excellent  knowledge base for the WNA candidate.

What is the difference between a certified WNA and a Registered Dietitian (RD)?  The WNA provides routine and general nutrition counseling. The WIC RD provides more comprehensive and individualized nutrition services. WNAs are paraprofessional staff and work under the direction of professional and management staff.  They often learn needed skills on the job; however they may also have college certificates or four year degrees.  Registered Dietitians (RD) are professional staff  that have completed at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, have completed an American Dietetic Association (ADA) approved dietetic internship program, and passed a national registry exam administered by the ADA. RD’s may also have a master’s degree in nutrition, public health, or a related field.  In California, WIC RD’s work as managers, nutrition education specialists, and  trainers. 

What California Community College Certificate Programs are available (but not required) as training to become a certified WNA?  Programs (two semesters) with Supervised Community Nutrition Field Experience: The City College of San Francisco (CCSF)- Nutrition Assistant Program (includes job placement services). For more information at CCSF, visit http://www.ccsf.edu/Departments/Health_PE/consumer_ed/index.html. Orange Coast Community College in Costa Mesa- Community Nutrition Assistant Program (with specialization options). City College of Sacramento - Nutrition Assistant Program. Programs without Field Experience: Consumnes River College in Sacramento- Community Nutrition Specialist Program (one semester-more emphasis on food service). Ohlone College in Fremont-Applied Nutrition (two semesters).

Last modified on: 11/6/2008 1:03 AM