The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) is revising foods prescribed to the six million people who take part in the 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 were made with input from National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, among other entities.
According to FNS, the changes will enhance assistance and equity and also give WIC state agencies the ability to customize packages for personal and cultural food preferences and special dietary needs. Among other updates, the revisions increase the amount of fruits and vegetables provided, expand whole grain options, allow for more non-dairy substitutions, add canned fish, require canned beans as well as dried beans and give more flexibility in the amount of baby formula provided to partially breastfed infants.
“USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC, helping mothers, babies and young kids thrive,” remarked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These proposed changes will strengthen WIC – already an incredibly powerful program – by ensuring it provides foods that reflect the latest nutrition science to support healthy eating and bright futures.”
The National Grocers Association (NGA) weighed in on the proposal. “WIC is an indispensable nutrition safety net for families in need. America’s independent community grocers have been strong partners with federal and state government agencies in implementing the WIC program for decades. We believe there are opportunities to modernize the WIC food packages and streamline the shopping experience to benefit retailers and most importantly WIC participants,” commented Stephanie Johnson, VP of government relations for the Washington, D.C.-based NGA.
“It is critical that the WIC program works for both retailers and families,” Johnson continued. “An updated food package that includes foods that families want to eat will lead to improved consumption of the nutrients needed by moms, babies, and young children and support retailers' participation in the program. NGA is pleased to see the inclusion of a permanent increase for fruit and vegetables, as well as pack size flexibility for certain foods. We appreciate the USDA’s work on this proposed rule and look forward to further analyzing it as we work with our members to provide comments on the needed improvements to the WIC food package.”
The USDA and FNS are soliciting feedback on the proposed rule through a comment period that runs from Nov. 21 through Feb. 21, 2023.