PHA Supports USDA’s Proposed Changes to WIC
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is revising its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. The suggested changes – the first updated assessments since 2009 – reflect the latest nutrition science and aim to help moms, babies, and young children thrive.
The proposed revisions support fruit and vegetable consumption by increasing the amount provided and the varieties available for purchase. USDA also proposes revisions that give participants a greater variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from and adjusts the quantity of juice to reflect nutrition guidance, which emphasizes whole fruits and vegetables. Other proposed changes include, but are not limited to:
- Expanding whole grain options to include foods like quinoa, blue cornmeal, and teff to reflect dietary guidance and accommodate individual or cultural preferences.
- Providing more non-dairy substitution options such as soy-based yogurts and cheeses – and requiring lactose-free milk to be offered.
- Including canned fish in more food packages, creating more equitable access to this under-consumed food.
- Requiring canned beans to be offered in addition to dried.
- Adding more flexibility in the amount of formula provided to partially breastfed infants to support individual breastfeeding goals.
Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) is encouraged by USDA’s updated WIC Food Package proposed rule. We believe the proposed updates will improve the WIC shopping experience by expanding the range of products and providing greater choice with increased benefit levels for many nutritious foods, including vegetables and fruits. We support USDA’s efforts to permanently increase the fruit and vegetable cash value voucher benefit, which would provide 50% of the fruit and vegetable intake recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. We commend the focus on whole fruit over juice and the increased variety of vegetables, fruits, and legumes offered. The updated food package has the strong potential to improve the food landscape for the nation’s youngest eaters with more quantity and variety of nutrient-dense produce.
PHA is committed to transforming the food landscape in pursuit of Food Equity - the concept that everyone, no matter their zip code, should have access to long-lasting affordable, good food. Alongside the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, PHA made a commitment to add 100 million servings of vegetables, fruits and beans to the marketplace by 2025, and we are working toward that goal through our programs and partnerships, including our Veggies Early & Often campaign. We can’t build Food Equity alone and recognize the importance of WIC in providing more than 6 million moms, babies, and young children with nutritious meals.
WIC food package changes would not happen immediately. The commenting period for USDA’s proposed WIC food package rule is now open until February 21, 2023. After the commenting period, USDA will review all comments before making a final ruling. Changes to the WIC food package could happen as soon as 2024.