N° 97 | February 2015

« WIC : Latest advances »

Editorial

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has just celebrated forty years of public health nutrition success since its bipartisan Congressional founding in 1974. A much studied program, WIC has repeatedly demonstrated the effective impacts on healthy birth outcomes and children’s preparedness for school. The science based review of the WIC food packages by the esteemed National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended sweeping changes in 2005 to WIC’s then over 30 year old food packages to accommodate cultural preferences, reduced dairy fat, the addition of whole grains, and most importantly fruits and vegetables, among other changes. USDA and state WIC agencies implemented those changes in 2009 with further modifi cations in 2014. From the time of the IOM Report until last December, Congress respected the science based foundation of the WIC food packages, refusing to don lab coats and act the part of nutrition scientists.

This changed when the US National Potato Council, took offence at the exclusion of white potatoes from the food packages by the IOM and USDA. As Americans consume vast quantities of potatoes especially in the form of potato chips and French fries, white potatoes were excluded from the food packages by the IOM and USDA. The US National Potato Council, began pressuring Congress with campaign contributions and lobbyists in 2007, forcing legislative language into this year’s (Fiscal Year 2015) WIC funding bill that requires WIC to include white potatoes among fruit and vegetable purchases.

The limited value of the monthly WIC coupons allowing for those purchases – $8 for children and $10 for women – means that the wider variety of fruits and vegetables WIC encourages at the IOM’s behest are at risk of being squeezed by white potatoes. Our three authors all point to the added value of fruits and vegetables to WIC. Recently, the multi-billion dollar potato industry celebrated its lobbying success applauding their lobbyists for bringing «common sense» to WIC. One can only hope that Congress’ new «scientifi c» intrusion will not damage the health outcomes and successes of WIC’s successful 2009 fruit and vegetable changes for America’s most vulnerable mothers and young children.

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