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Originally published June 26 2008

After 30 Years, USDA Finally Updates WIC Program to Include Fruits, Vegetables

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program, receiving its first major rules change since its creation in 1972, now allows participating women to purchase fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

The WIC program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides approximately $39 per person per month to qualifying low-income women who are pregnant or have children up to the age of five who are at nutritional risk. An estimated 8.5 million women and children have their diets supplemented through the program each year.

WIC guidelines only allow the vouchers to be used to purchase certain items deemed nutritional necessities. The new rules are designed to decrease saturated fat and cholesterol intake and increase the intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables. For the first time, WIC vouchers can be used to purchase fruits or vegetables. At the same time, the maximum allowed amounts of eggs, juice and dairy products have been lowered.

Instead of the formerly allowed 2.5 dozen eggs per month, WIC vouchers can now be used to purchase one dozen a month. The amount of allowed juice for children between the ages of 1 and 4 has been decreased from 288 fluid ounces per month to 128, and milk has been reduced from 24 fluid ounces per month to 16.

The program will also now allow the substitution of certain items to make participation easier for people of different cultural backgrounds. For example, soft corn tortillas may be purchased instead of whole wheat bread, and certain canned, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables may be purchased instead of fresh varieties.

Another rule change aims to encourage breastfeeding by giving out fruit and vegetable vouchers valued at $10 to each woman who fully breastfeeds her infants, compared with the normal $8 value of the voucher. In addition, the amount of infant formula that can be purchased for partially breastfed infants has been decreased.

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