Last week, a committee of the National Academy of Medicine, formerly the Institute of Medicine, released a report summarizing background information it will use to conduct a review of the food packages provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The report identified the nutrient needs of the WIC population, current intakes and nutrition-related health risks in WIC participants and trends in program participation and food package redemption.
Current food packages include milk for women and children, with yogurt and cheese as optional substitutes for milk. Quantities vary based on the age of the participant. The 2014 final rule that last updated the food packages provided for yogurt as an option and also limited women and children two and older to low fat or fat free milk only. The report cited surveys that showed that most WIC participants were satisfied with the types of milk available and milk redemption rates were higher than other foods offered in the program. Many of these surveys appear to have been conducted prior to the 2014 elimination of reduced fat milk from many food packages.
Although the report did not make specific recommendations regarding dairy available in the food packages, dairy was identified as a food group under-consumed by women and children between the ages of two and five. Of the four nutrients of concern cited by the report based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report, milk is a good source of three of them: potassium, calcium and vitamin D.
However, dairy foods, particularly cheese and whole and reduced fat milk, were identified as sources of saturated fat in the food packages. But the report also included a discussion of the possible different implications for health of dairy fat as compared to other sources of saturated fat, including that milkfat may increase satiety and reduce the intake of other energy dense foods.
Prior to the report being released, IDFA provided both oral and written comments to the committee. The written comments urged the committee to encourage the inclusion of a variety of dairy products. It also underscored the fact that nearly all Americans, including women and many children, are currently under-consuming dairy products, missing out on the important nutrients provided by dairy. IDFA recommended that women should be able to request reduced fat milk for themselves and their children, in order to ensure that participants are able to select their preferred variety of milk.
This report will be followed next year by a second report from the committee that will make specific recommendations about the foods and beverages that should be part of the food packages made available to WIC program participants. IDFA will work with its members to develop comments regarding next year’s planned recommendations. The full report is available online.
Members with questions or who would like to be involved in the development of IDFA’s comments should contact Michelle Matto, IDFA nutrition and labeling consultant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.