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NAS Committee Aims to Reduce Milk, Add Flexibility in WIC Packages

Jan 12, 2017

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine last week released the final report from the committee tasked with reviewing current food packages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and making recommendations to update food packages. Overall, the committee recommended significantly reducing the amount of milk and dairy products provided for children and women participating in the program. Some recommended packages, however, would allow participants to substitute more yogurt for fluid milk, and participants will still have the option to swap milk for cheese.

Also, the committee recommended more size flexibility, saying yogurt substitutions for a quart of milk could range from 30-32 ounces to allow for smaller container sizes most commonly found at stores. It said reducing total milk in the packages would rectify the issue of “dangling milk,” which is the amount of fluid milk left over when a WIC participant swaps it for cheese.

Immediately after the report was released, IDFA and the National Milk Producer’s Federation expressed concern with the proposed changes, saying, “It is contradictory that the NAS report would both acknowledge that many WIC participants are not getting enough milk, yet at the same time suggest further reducing the milk served through this program.” Read the joint press release here.

The committee’s recommendations will not directly change the foods and beverages provided through the WIC program, but they will serve as a resource to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service, which is the agency that administers and updates the WIC program, as well as lawmakers, organizations and health professionals. Read the full report here.

As USDA considers these recommendations for possible changes to the WIC program, IDFA and NMPF will continue to highlight the nutritional and economic value that milk and dairy products provide to Americans.

Changes Must Be Cost-Neutral

The committee based its review on current buying patterns of WIC participants, their cultural and health needs and the recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The major changes include increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables and adding fish as a trade-off for decreasing the allowed amounts of juice, milk, beans, peanut butter and infant food.

Noting that the program is intended to be a supplemental program providing moderate amounts from recommended food groups rather than the full recommended amounts, the committee recommended changes that would not add costs to the program. In fact, the proposed changes are estimated to save approximately $220 million program-wide from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2022.

Members may log in to access an analysis with details about how dairy products fared in the new report.

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