USDA proposes science-based food updates provided through WIC

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The proposed changes promote food security, maternal and child health, and increase flexibility for participants

Wash., Nov. 17, 2022 – The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service announces proposed changes to the foods prescribed to participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. These science-based revisions include National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Recommendations and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

“The USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC and helping mothers, babies and young children thrive,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “These proposed changes will strengthen WIC – already an incredibly powerful program – by ensuring it provides foods that reflect the latest nutritional science to support healthy eating and a bright future.”

The WIC Food Packs are specifically designed to supplement the foods and beverages already consumed by participants and to fill key nutritional gaps to support healthy growth and development. Food and Nutrition Service, or FNS, is suggest changes Adapt food packaging to the latest nutritional science and support equitable access to nutritious food at critical life stages.

Taken together, the changes will increase current levels of support while providing WIC state agencies with more flexibility to tailor packages to personal and cultural dining preferences and special dietary needs, and increase diversity and choice for WIC participants, making the program more attractive to current ones and potential participants.

[Proposed Updates to the WIC Food Packages Infographic]

“For the more than 6 million mothers, babies and young children who participate in WIC—and the millions more who are eligible to participate—these proposed revisions have the potential to have positive, lifelong impacts on health and well-being,” Stacy said Dean, Assistant Secretary of State for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.

The proposed changes support fruit and vegetable consumption by increasing the quantity offered and the varieties available for purchase. Congress previously instituted a significant but temporary increase in the benefit granted to WIC participants for the purchase of fruit and vegetables. FNS proposes making this increase permanent, giving participants up to four times the amount they would otherwise receive. FNS is also proposing revisions that give participants a wider variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from and adjust the amount of juice to reflect dietary recommendations that emphasize whole fruits and vegetables.

Other proposed changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Expanded whole grain options to include foods like quinoa, blue cornmeal, and teff to reflect dietary recommendations and accommodate individual or cultural preferences.
  • Providing more non-dairy substitute options like soy-based yogurt and cheese – and requiring lactose-free milk to be offered.
  • Including canned fish in more food packaging to create more equitable access to these underconsumed foods.
  • It must be offered in addition to dried canned beans.
  • More flexibility in the amount of formula provided to partially breastfed infants to support individual breastfeeding goals.

These – and all proposed changes – are based on the NASEM report “Review of WIC Food Packages: Improving Balance and Choice” and the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines. Revisions are also informed by the FDA-EPA recommendation on eating fish and feedback from WIC participants, state and tribal partners, and other government agencies.

FNS encourages all interested parties to visit and provide feedback on the proposed changes www.regulations.gov. The comment period runs from November 21, 2022 – February 21, 2023.

[WIC: Building Healthy Foundations Infographic]

WIC is one of the highest performing, evidence-based public health programs with a long history of improving children’s health and developmental outcomes. Participants receive specialized nutrition, essential resources — including nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and immunization screening — and referrals to health and social services.

WIC is also uniquely positioned to reduce racial disparities in maternal and child health. WIC participation rates are highest among WIC-eligible Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black people, and the previous updates to WIC food packs were shown to improve access (PDF, 248 KB) on healthier foods for Hispanic and Latino WIC participants.

Given the proven benefits of the program, FNS is committed to modernizing WIC to maximize its impact throughout the eligibility of participants. The ministry recently announced several big investments to modernize WIC, support innovation and help reach more mothers and toddlers. To learn more, visit the WIC modernization and innovation site.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and improve food and nutrition security through a number of more than 15 nutritional assistance programs, such as the school breakfast and lunch programs, WIC and SNAP. Together, these programs serve one in four Americans over the course of a year, promoting consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, and affordable foods essential for optimal health and well-being. FNS also provides science-based nutritional advice through co-development of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. FNS report “Leveraging the White House Conference to Promote and Enhance Food Security: The Role of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service‘, highlights how the agency will support the Biden-Harris administration National Strategy (PDF, 776 KB), published in conjunction with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health in September 2022. To learn more about FNS, visit www.fns.usda.gov and follow @USDANutrition.

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