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WIC food voucher program updated to include fruits, veggies and whole grains

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: food vouchers, WIC program, low-income consumers

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(NewsTarget) In the first major overhaul since its 1974 implementation, the U.S. government's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will now provide fewer vouchers and food checks for dairy and juice so that the program can cover fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The program provides approximately $35 per month to purchase baby formula and certain foods for qualifying low-income pregnant women, infants and children up to age 5 who are considered at nutritional risk, but now that coverage is set to change. Under the program, covered amounts of milk would go from 3.2 cups a day to 2.1 for children and post-partum women. Only half of the current amount of two to two-and-a-half dozen eggs would be covered for children and pregnant or partially breastfeeding women.

The USDA announced the changes Monday, stating that they were necessary to combat the growing U.S. obesity epidemic. The Institute of Medicine was asked by the USDA to review the WIC program in 2003, and recommended the program changes.

"This proposal brings the WIC Food Packages in line with current dietary science," said Peggy Lewis, president of the National WIC Association.

Some industry groups disagree with the move, however, stating that it deprived mothers and children of essential nutrients.

"Eggs provide several nutrients ... which play an important role in the health of the women and children enrolled in WIC," said Donald McNamara, executive director of the Egg Nutrition Center. "A reduction in eggs would make it more difficult for WIC participants to meet their nutrient needs," he said.

Meanwhile, some health advocates feel the changes just scratch the surface of the nutrition and obesity problem in the United States. Holistic nutritionist Mike Adams has for many years reported that more whole grains, fruits and vegetables are necessary for proper nutrition, while things like dairy products can actually work to deteriorate the health of men, women and children alike. See his Honest Food Guide for a healthy alternative to the USDA's Food Pyramid.

"With these changes, the WIC program is taking a step in the right direction," Adams said. "In general, subsidizing nutritional purchases for low-income citizens is a good strategy with multiple payoffs, including lower long-term health care costs for those impacted by the program. Ideally, WIC would be expanded to include coverage whole food-based nutritional supplements as well," he added.


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