Value About Enhanced Nutrition Assessment in WIC (VENA): VENA Guidance

Nutrition Assessment in WIC

Nutrition assessment is a required and essential part of the WIC program. As the starting point for designing all WIC nutrition services, it's used to determine eligibility by identifying nutrition risks, and to personalize WIC nutrition services. 

VENA is a participant-centered, health outcome-based approach to the WIC nutrition assessment. VENA puts the participant's needs and the goal of a healthy outcome at the core of WIC nutrition services. A WIC nutrition assessment using the VENA approach systematically collects and evaluates information elicited from the participant, while at the same time, allows staff to engage the participant in dialogue about her needs and goals of healthy behavior.

About the VENA Guidance

The VENA Guidance assists WIC State agencies in developing policies and procedures related to the WIC nutrition assessment. The USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) first issued VENA Guidance in 2006. Since then, State and local agencies have put new approaches into action and discovered more effective strategies to foster participants’ engagement in the WIC appointment and to encourage participants to adopt positive nutrition and physical activity behaviors.

About the VENA Guidance Update

For this update, FNS collected input from a range of stakeholders and experts, including staff in WIC State agencies and FNS Regional Offices as well as nutrition assessment and counseling professionals. The update was also shaped by a review of studies and publications on nutrition assessment.

Using VENA Guidance

The VENA Guidance is designed to assist State and local agencies in their efforts to provide high-quality nutrition services and strengthen the WIC nutrition assessment through continuous quality improvement and customer service efforts. The VENA Guidance complements the WIC Nutrition Services Standards and other WIC policy and guidance documents.

State agencies should use the VENA Guidance to:

  • Develop policies and procedures related to nutrition assessment.
  • Evaluate and enhance their nutrition assessment processes by conducting a self-evaluation of current nutrition assessment policies and practices.
  • Evaluate current training and staff development offerings and add new strategies and trainings to build staff skills as needed.
  • Assess use of MIS and other technology tools to ensure they fit with the VENA approach, allow users to tailor services within a consistent framework, and promote continuity of care.
  • Review opportunities to incorporate direct observation of staff performance to ensure the VENA approach is operationalized.
  • Identify areas of support needed at the State or local level to promote adoption of the VENA approach and communicate support needs to the FNS Regional offices.