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Grocers Applaud WIC Final Rule Boosting Fruit and Veg Benefits

Provisions also allow greater flexibility on package sizes
Shopping Toddler Produce Main Image
Grocers are committed to strengthening WIC to provide recipients with greater choice and convenience to make the purchasing decisions that best meet their needs.

FMI – The Food Industry Association and the National Grocers Association (NGA) have approved of the provisions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule increasing fruits and vegetables and updating package sizes in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

“As private-sector partners with the federal government serving as points of redemption for WIC participants, FMI and its grocery members are committed to strengthening the program in a way that aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and provides WIC customers with greater choice and convenience to make the purchasing decisions that best meet their individual and family needs,” noted Jennifer Hatcher, chief public policy officer and SVP, government and member relations at Arlington, Va.-based FMI, in reaction to the provisions.

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“We applaud USDA’s commitment to permanently increasing the monthly cash-value voucher/benefit (CVV/B) amounts for fruit and vegetable purchases in the WIC program to reflect 50% of the Dietary Guidelines’ recommended fruit and vegetable intake for mothers and children,” continued Hatcher. “We also appreciate USDA’s approval of new substitution patterns and package size flexibility, which will improve participant access to and utilization of WIC foods. We expect both rule changes will result in measurable benefits for mothers and young children.”

Concluded Hatcher, “We are glad USDA accepted the recommendations we made in our comments as part of the rulemaking process to make these two updates, and we look forward to working with them and state agencies to implement these changes to ensure all mothers and children served by the WIC program will be able to secure the nutritious foods they need to thrive.”

“The WIC program serves as an essential nutrition safety net for families facing hardship. Independent community grocers across America have long been valuable collaborators with federal and state government agencies in the implementation of WIC,” said Stephanie Johnson, VP of government relations at Washington, D.C.-based NGA, which represents the independent sector of the grocery industry. “NGA supports USDA’s efforts to modernize the WIC Food Package to allow for flexibility that caters to the needs and preferences of consumers, while streamlining the shopping process to benefit both retailers and, most importantly, WIC participants. NGA applauds the inclusion of a permanent increase in fruit and vegetable provisions, which will enhance WIC families' access to nutritious fresh produce, alongside flexibility in pack sizes for certain foods.” 

Last year, in response to the USDA’s proposed rule on revisions to WIC food packages, the NGA offered improvements to help boost retailer participation as well as food access for WIC recipients. These improvements were the creation of an essential foods package with reasonable stocking requirements and an optional foods package with foods that are encouraged and allowed to be sold but do not have stringent stocking requirements, and for WIC vendors operating during severe supply shortages, disasters or public-health emergency areas to be able to substitute certain WIC-authorized items that are unavailable immediately.

The last review of WIC food packages happened in 2009. 

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