The U.S. Department of Agriculture hailed the revamping of its
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and
Children as the first comprehensive revisions to WIC food voucher
allowances since 1980.
The list of foods that recipients could pay for with WIC vouchers
was long limited to such basics as milk, infant formula, cheese,
eggs, cereals, bread and tuna fish.
But many of the changes finalized by the USDA on Friday were
instituted on an interim basis in 2007, including the introduction
of fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables to the list of
In its final form, the overhaul will boost by 30 percent, or $2 per
month, the allowance for each child's fruit and vegetable purchases,
and permit fresh produce in lieu of jarred infant food for babies,
if their parents prefer.
The update also expands whole grain options available to recipients
and allows yogurt as a partial milk substitute, adding to the
soy-based beverages and tofu that were previously included.
Moreover, states and local WIC agencies will be given more
flexibility in selecting foods to meet the nutritional and cultural
needs of their beneficiaries.
The changes were recommended by the Institute of Medicine, a branch
of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The updates to the WIC food package make pivotal improvements to
the program and better meet the diverse nutritional needs of mothers
and their young children," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already cited
recent changes in the WIC program as a contributing factor in the
decline of obesity rates among low-income preschool children in many
states, the department said.
The latest changes will be rolled out in phases, with some of the
first taking effect in 90 days and states given until April 2015 to
implement others, USDA spokeswoman Brooke Hardison said.
The revisions coincide with the 40th anniversary of the WIC program,
which is designed to help meet the basic nutritional needs of
low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children up to
The $7 billion program provided food assistance to roughly 2 million
adult women and nearly 7 million children in 2011, the latest year
for which such figures were available. States administer the program
though some 1,800 local agencies and 9,000 clinics.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Catherine Evans)
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