Natural Foods Merchandiser

WIC allows healthier foods

The 8 million people who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will be able to eat more healthfully in the new year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Dec. 6 that the program will now include fruits, vegetables and whole grains—the first major changes to the program in 30 years.

"This brings the packages up to date with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans," said Jack Currie, spokesman for the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service.

To address changing needs, the USDA reduced the current amounts of dairy and eggs to allow for the addition of fruits and vegetables, as well as soymilk and tofu. In addition, states have the option to allow substitution of frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice for the fresh produce, and whole-grain tortillas, rice or other grains for the whole-grain bread. Farmers' markets can also participate as WIC vendors now.

This version allows clients the choice of which fruits and vegetables they can purchase," said Geri Henchy, director of early childhood nutrition at Food Research and Action Center, a Washington, D.C.-based hunger-relief group.

"We're hoping that these changes will help put fruit and vegetables within the economic reach of many Americans," said Jill LeBrasseur, marketing and communications assistant with Produce for Better Health, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

The revisions—such as the new allowance for canned beans instead of dried beans—take into account changes in clients' lifestyles over the past three decades, Henchy explained. "It's so much more convenient. There are far more working mothers on the program today, and working mothers don't have time."

Shara Rutberg is a Boulder, Colo.-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIX/number 1/p.1

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