(Reuters) – Some 9 million poor women and young children who receive federal food assistance under the U.S. government’s so-called WIC program will have greater access to fruits, vegetables and whole grains under an overhaul of the program unveiled on Friday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture hailed the revamping of its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children as the first comprehensive revisions to WIC food voucher allowances since 1980.
The list of foods that recipients could pay for with WIC vouchers was long limited to such basics as milk, infant formula, cheese, eggs, cereals, bread and tuna fish.
But many of the changes finalized by the USDA on Friday were instituted on an interim basis in 2007, including the introduction of fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables to the list of WIC-covered foods.
In its final form, the overhaul will boost by 30 percent, or $2 per month, the allowance for each child’s fruit and vegetable purchases, and permit fresh produce in lieu of jarred infant food for babies, if their parents prefer.
The update also expands whole grain options available to recipients and allows yogurt as a partial milk substitute, adding to the soy-based beverages and tofu that were previously included.
Moreover, states and local WIC agencies will be given more flexibility in selecting foods to meet the nutritional and cultural needs of their beneficiaries.