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Proposed Updates to the USDA’s WIC Nutrition Program Would Add More Plant-Based Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Options

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing to add more dairy-free products, including milk, cheese and yogurt, to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Under the proposed changes through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, millions of mothers and children would receive access to more dairy-free foods as well as increased provisions for fruits and vegetables. 

“Increasing access to healthful foods is an imperative step to achieving health equity”

WIC is an assistance program that aims to safeguard the health of low-income women and infants under the age of 5. Designed to fill in nutrition gaps, the program provides free vouchers for foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, eggs and cheese. Currently, the only dairy-free alternative the program currently allows for is soymilk. 

Through the proposed revisions, WIC would expand the variety of dairy and egg-free options to include soy yogurt, vegan cheese, and tofu. Canned beans would also become available instead of only dried beans. 

Plant-Based Milks
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More produce and grains

Furthermore, the USDA is proposing to make WIC’s whole grains category more culturally diverse by adding quinoa, blue cornmeal and teff, while permanently increasing families’ fruits and vegetables supplement by four or five times. 

The proposed changes are based on recommendations from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 

“The Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) proposed rule makes critical improvements to the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC),” said Bobby Scott, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman. By advancing a science-based review of the foods available and expanding options that align with dietary guidelines, more families will be able to access the food they need to live healthier lives.” 

Fruits/ Vegetables/ Healthy Food
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“Welcome advancements”

Congresswoman Kim Schrier stated, “Last year my bipartisan bill was signed into law that allows WIC families to receive higher benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables during the pandemic. I’m thrilled that USDA is making this change permanent. So many pregnant women and young children will benefit!”

“Increasing access to healthful foods is an imperative step to achieving health equity,” commented Ellen R. Shanley, President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Serving millions of participants every day, WIC improves health outcomes for pregnant mothers, babies and children. So it is essential that the WIC food packages contain important nutrients and improve diet quality while also being mindful of people’s cultural preferences and customs. The changes announced today will provide welcome advancements in each of these areas.”

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