Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
WIC is one of the federal nutrition programs operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and funded by Congress. The program provides nutritious foods to supplement the diets of low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding, as well as children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. In 2020, 6.3 million Americans participated in the WIC program, according to USDA data.
It’s been nearly a decade since Congress updated this program,
but a reauthorization process is now underway. IDFA is calling for changes that
would make dairy products and their nutritional benefits more accessible to WIC
- IDFA is seeking Congress to reinstate reduced-fat (2%) milk, which is the most widely available variety, for all WIC participants, to simplify and fulfill their allotted redemptions. In 2014, USDA limited access to reduced-fat (2%) milk only to children under two years of age participating in WIC. WIC mothers and children two years of age and older were required to receive low-fat or fat-free milk. As a result of this inconsistent restriction, WIC participants are not fully redeeming their WIC milk benefits and are consuming fewer essential nutrients for this targeted population.
- IDFA is seeking Congress and USDA to codify that WIC benefits may be used to buy yogurt which is already allowed in the program, to be purchased in single-serving sizes totaling “up to” 32 ounces instead of only in 32-ounce containers, which are not widely available, particularly in small neighborhood stores. The change also would allow WIC participants to access yogurt sizes, flavors, and varieties that meet WIC nutrition standards but are more commonly available.
- In 2014, USDA issued regulations (7 CFR 246.10) that, among other things, prohibits any milk variety other than low-fat (1%) and non-fat in WIC food packages for participants aged two and older, unless a participant has certain medical conditions. As a result, WIC participants are not fully redeeming their milk benefits, meaning a “nutritional risk” population is missing the thirteen essential nutrients contained in milk.
- Americans in general and WIC participants in particular do not consume the amount of milk recommended by the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including milk's 13 essential nutrients. In fact, WIC redemption of low-fat milk is 9-14 percentage points lower than WIC redemptions of whole milk.
- Many WIC participants prefer reduced-fat (2%) or whole milk and have been using their own money, instead of WIC, to purchase these varieties. A 2015 student found that many stores in Hispanic-majority and low-income neighborhoods, were less likely to carry low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk, resulting in less access and less milk consumption by WIC families.
- Yogurt was added to the WIC food package in 2015 as it has been identified as a nutrient-dense food that helps participants meet the program’s nutrient recommendations and help provide variety because it is available in different flavors than milk and cheese.
- While WIC rules allow program participants to swap one quart of milk for 32 ounces of yogurt, some states have interpreted this rule restrictively by specifying that such WIC purchases can only be for a 32-ounce container of yogurt, and not for commonly sold single-serve containers (such as 4 oz., 5.3 oz., and 6 oz. Cups) totaling up to 32 ounces.
- To encourage WIC participants to consume yogurt, WIC-approved yogurt should be available in a variety of container sizes that both meet the needs of WIC families and are widely available in stores.
Congress can improve the health and nutrition of millions of
American families by making these simple program changes. IDFA will continue
its education and advocacy efforts on the Hill during the review process.
For more information, contact Joseph Scimeca, IDFA senior vice president, regulatory and scientific affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.