Healthier food choices for lower income Americans
Nearly nine million low-income women and young children receive food aid every month through a federal program commonly known as WIC, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
WIC, which stands for The Special Supplemental Nutritional for Women, Infant and Children, has provided food, nutrition education and health care referrals for underprivileged pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to the age of 5 since 1972. In most states, WIC agencies provide checks, vouchers or electronic benefit cards to participants in order for them to purchase approved foods.
Last week, the USDA announced for the first time since 1980 that they have made comprehensive changes to the WIC-approved food list. Participants in the program will now have greater access to fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“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,” Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsak said in a statement.
A few highlights of the changes include:
- More than thirty percent increase in the dollar amount for fruit and vegetable purchases for children
- Expanded whole grain options
- Yogurt can serve as a partial milk substitute for women and children
- Parents are allowed to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for their older infants instead of jarred infant food
- States and local WIC agencies are given more flexibility to meet the cultural and nutritional needs of the participants
Some of the updates were first introduced in 2007, in response to public requests to update the food selection regulations. Now, the food options are more aligned with updated nutritional science and recommendations from other national nutritional agencies.
Jaclyn Sprague, nutritionist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, Ill., says “This change has been long overdue. Providing an increase in healthy food options for families will start kids on the right track in preventing obesity.”
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