DORAL, FL – USDA program that feeds low-income pregnant women, babies and young children will now include healthier options, according to a proposal made on Thursday.
The program known as WIC benefits more than 6.2 million people annually and the federal government currently pays about $5 billion a year to run it, which is administered through states and other jurisdictions.
Now recipients of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’ Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will be able to receive better food choices through the vouchers that specifically lists the amount and types of food they can buy.
The changes proposed will extend a bump in payments for fresh fruits and vegetables allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic and adds more whole grains, including foods from different cultures such as quinoa, blue cornmeal and teff, an ancient East African cereal grass, to their shopping carts.
It also adds more canned fish, such as tuna, easy-to-prepare canned beans, dried beans and non-dairy options like soy-based yogurts and cheeses, and requires lactose-free milk to be included.
In addition, the plan would reduce the amounts of some foods, for example, reducing or eliminating juice allowed for some recipients and reducing the amount of milk and cheese covered under the program.
“These proposals will promote healthier lifestyles and brighter futures for millions of children,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition, and consumer services to the AP.
The revisions would make permanent payments authorized by Congress during the COVID-19 pandemic that increased vouchers for fruits and vegetables to $25 a month for children ages 1 to 5 and to $49 a month for breastfeeding women.
The proposed changes are based on a 2017 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the national Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They’ll be evaluated after a three-month public comment period.
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