N° 21 | May 2017

The updated healthy nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children - WIC

Editorial

WIC – the USA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children has been providing healthy food, breastfeeding support, referrals to health and social services, and nutrition education to vulnerable income qualified American families with nutritional needs for over 40 years. The program, administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, serves around 7.5 million low-income women and infants, and children between the ages of 1 and 5. WIC is America’s premier public health nutrition program.

A cornerstone of WIC is the food package. Comprised of healthy foods selected to meet the nutritional needs this vulnerable population, they are prescribed through WIC to support an individual’s healthy growth and development. WIC foods include milk, cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, legumes, canned fish and whole grains.

WIC participants receive their healthy food prescription on either an electronic benefit card or paper voucher. In addition, participants receive a Cash Value Voucher (CVV) to spend exclusively on fruit and vegetables.

The WIC food package is reviewed every 10 years to ensure it is based on the most current scientific evidence, aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is culturally appropriate to meet the diverse population of families WIC serves across the United States. In January 2017, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) published a ten-year review of the WIC food package along with recommendations for changes to the WIC food package that would enhance balance and choice for WIC participants.

A key feature of the recommendations is increasing the amount of vegetables and fruit that families can access through WIC. The proposed changes would help the WIC program provide an enhanced food package that is further tailored to the nutritional needs of the participant, effectively maximizing the nutritional benefit that each client receives from their food.

In particular, NASEM recommends increasing the consumption and choice in whole grains and fruit and vegetables, decreasing the amount of certain foods that were found to be offered in too large a quantity or were burdensome to WIC families, and improving support for breastfeeding mothers.

As well as making recommendations for changes to the food package, NASEM also made recommendations for future research. This speaks to the continued and critical importance of research in the field of WIC, the food package and the essential need to assure that the food package stays relevant.

We are pleased to share with you three articles that further showcase research as a tool to help WIC continuously reflect on how WIC participants utilize their food benefits.

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