Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Changes To WIC Program

Around the time Fred Thompson proclaimed, "I don’t think that it’s the primary responsibility of the federal government to tell you what to eat.", the USDA was issuing a press release describing changes it planned to make to its food assistance program WIC.

Here's the old (currently in place) WIC food package: WIC Food Package - Maximum Monthly Allowances.

According to the USDA, "[The new] food packages are revised to add new foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while amounts of some current foods are modified."

Below are some changes I saw while browsing through the USDA's new rule. It's based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines:
  • The new food package attempts to reduce total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol consumption. It plans to achieve this by reducing the monthly allowance for milk (by about 1/3), cheese, and eggs (down to 1 dozen from 2 to 2 1/2 dozen).
  • Yogurt wasn't allowed under the old package, nor is it allowed under the new package.
  • Allowances for juice (100% unsweetened) are reduced by about half.
  • The new package introduces allowances for:
    • Soy-based beverages and tofu.
    • Whole grains, notably bread. Bread was not covered under the old package. It will recommend consumption of "at least 3 servings per day of whole grains to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, to help with body weight maintenance, and to increase intake of dietary fiber."
    • Canned fish other than tuna (salmon and sardines).
  • The current benefit averages under $40/month. The change to include fruits and vegetables will be accomplished with a voucher, $6 to $10/month, which as I understand it, is to be deducted from the allowed benefit.
More fruits and vegetables seems like a step in the right direction. It's a whole lot better than just allowing "carrots". But at the expense of eggs, juice, milk, and cheese? And that move to include whole grain bread and soy-based beverages must make all those subsidized wheat and soy farmers happy. If anything, I'd support limiting breakfast cereals.

This got me thinking ... If Thompson was in a position to see his proclamation through, I wonder how he would change the WIC program?

Here's a Reuters news summary, USDA Revises Food Program For Women And Children.

1 WIC is a supplemental nutrition program for low-income women (including pregnant and breastfeeding), infants and children (WIC). It funds food, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals.

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