Proposed Rule on Fruits, Veggies, and Whole Grains for WIC Published

WASHINGTON -- A proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to the Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program for the first time in its 32-year history was published online yesterday. The rule represents the first update to WIC since 1980.

"This proposed rule would revise regulations governing the WIC food packages to align the WIC food packages with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and current infant feeding practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, better promote and support the establishment of successful long-term breastfeeding, provide WIC participants with a wider variety of food, provide WIC state agencies with greater flexibility in prescribing food packages to accommodate participants with cultural food preferences, and serve participants with certain qualifying conditions under one food package to facilitate efficient management of medically fragile participants," according to the USDA.

The U.S. Institute of Medicine called for considerable changes to the WIC food package last year.

To pay for the cost of the newly added foods, WIC would cover less of the cost of the juice, eggs, cheese, and milk that have long been offered by the program. WIC helps feed more than half the babies born in the United States.

"The inclusion of fruits and vegetables and a wider variety of foods to increase cultural acceptability and intakes of nutrients and the inclusion of whole-grain products are the critical tools WIC needs in the Food Packages to reinforce the nutrition education messages we give mothers and children in WIC clinics," noted Peggy Lewis, president of the Washington-based National WIC Association (NWA), in a statement. "This proposal brings the WIC food packages in line with current dietary science." NWA first proposed such changes to Congress and the USDA six years ago, added Lewis.

"The USDA's announcement is welcome news to mothers and their children who should not be deprived access to nutritious meals, including fresh fruits and vegetables in their daily diet," said Thomas E. Stenzel, president and c.e.o. of Washington-based United Fresh Food & Vegetable Association. "We have been working for this landmark achievement for many years and we are hopeful that the rule will be expedited after the 90-day public comment period so that everyone, regardless of income, can benefit from better nutrition."

Comments to the proposed rule must be postmarked or sent electronically on or before Nov. 6, 2006.
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