USA’s WIC program improves access to healthy foods in communities across the nation

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) administered by 2,200 state and local WIC agencies under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture serves nearly nine million qualifying mothers, children, and infants. These people are income eligible and at nutrition risk, and include over half of all America’s infants and one-quarter of its children between one and five years of age. Quality nutrition services are the centerpiece of WIC: nutrition and breastfeeding education, nutritious foods, and improved healthcare access for low and moderate income women and children with, or at risk of developing, nutrition-related health problems, including overweight, obesity, and type-2 diabetes.

The foods included in the WIC food packages are specifically selected for their nutritional value to supplement the nutrients found lacking in the diets of lowincome populations. The foods include fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits and vegetables, prepared baby fruits, vegetables, and meats, low-fat dairy, whole grain cereals and bread, light tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel, canned and dried beans, peanut butter, eggs, juice, and iron-fortified infant formula.

WIC’s current food package reflects revisions made in 2009 to include healthier food choices such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains. Following the food package revisions, WIC food vendors, specifically convenience stores and groceries in low-income areas, were prompted to improve their selection of healthy foods to maintain their status as a WICauthorized vendor. Researchers have been evaluating the impact of the revised food package on lower-income areas where healthy, affordable foods may have been previously unavailable. The following three studies examine how the WIC Program contributes to improving access to healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, in communities across the nation.

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