WIC adds fruits, veggies to program

WILMINGTON, DEL. - Everyone needs to eat their fruits and vegetables, but for many Americans struggling to keep food on the table with the help of WIC, the healthy choices have been hard to purchase.

That's about to change. The Women, Infants and Children program, commonly referred to as WIC, will make changes in October to include those grocery items in its acceptable purchase list.

The federal government made revisions to the food voucher program for needy families to reflect updated U.S. dietary guidelines and to allow more flexibility in food choices. The changes are the first in nearly three decades to the state-run, federally-funded program.

"We're delighted that the food choices and amounts are being updated to better meet the nutritional needs of WIC participants," said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation, the nonprofit entity behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters® national public health initiative. "WIC has always provided nutrition education and support to mothers and the addition of fruits and vegetables will complement these efforts by increasing their access to these nutritious foods."

Besides the addition of fruits and vegetables, WIC families can now also add whole grains, whole breads and tortillas, and canned beans. In the past, the program was limited to milk, cheese, eggs, juice, cereals and dried beans or peanut butter.

The program is reducing the voucher amounts of milk, cheese and eggs, and now stipulates that only one-percent or fat-free milk be allowed for women and children age two and older. These changes are more consistent with USDA dietary guidelines recommendations of limiting the consumption of saturated fats.

WIC is a federal program for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or recently pregnant, as well as infants and children up to age five.