At the same time, the plan would reduce the amounts of some foods, for example reducing or eliminating juice allowed for some recipients. It also reduces the amount of milk and cheese covered under the program, a move that drew immediate criticism from the dairy industry.
“It is unfortunate for WIC participants that the proposed rule would decrease access to dairy products and the unique nutrient profile they provide," the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation said in a statement.
More than 6.2 million pregnant women, mothers, babies and young children participate in the program annually. The federal government currently pays about $5 billion a year to run the program, which is administered through states and other jurisdictions. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children provides vouchers to mothers and children who qualify and specifically lists the amount and types of food they can buy.
The proposed changes to WIC would also expand access to whole grains, encompassing foods from different cultures, including quinoa, blue cornmeal and teff, an ancient East African cereal grass. The plan also allows more non-dairy options, including soy-based yogurts and cheeses, and requires lactose-free milk to be included.
“It reflects the fact that different people have different capacities to tolerate different kinds of food,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said.
More canned fish, such as tuna, would be available as well as easy-to-prepare canned beans, in addition to dried beans, officials said. The plan would also change the amount of infant formula provided to partially breastfed babies.
Increasing the voucher for fruits and vegetables to $25 a month during the pandemic has allowed Elizabeth Loya, 28, of Los Angeles, to encourage her 4-year-old daughter, Gisselle, to sample new foods.
“She tried Brussels sprouts and, two weeks ago, she tried asparagus,” Loya said. “She liked them.”
The proposed changes are based on a 2017 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the national Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They'll be evaluated after a three-month public comment period. ___
This story has been corrected to fix Geraldine Henchy’s title. She is the director of nutrition policy for the Food Research & Action Center, not the director of the center.
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