#5 story of 2009: Congress increases WIC produce, school meal program funds - The Packer

#5 story of 2009: Congress increases WIC produce, school meal program funds

01/04/2010 12:29:08 PM
Dan Galbraith

The fresh produce industry’s hard work over a long period of time paid dividends in 2009, so much so that the expanded role of fresh produce on school menus and in the Women, Infant and Children feeding program vaulted into the No. 5 position in this year’s countdown of top news stories.

October brought great news for the industry when fruit and vegetable vouchers for moms participating in WIC enjoyed a $2 per month boost from Congress.

Congress passed the fiscal 2010 agricultural appropriations bill in mid-October with an increase of $2 per month for the fruit and vegetable voucher received by 1.6 million moms in the program.

“We’re really excited that we were able to get that increase in value in the vouchers for women, but we remain fully engaged in urging the Obama administration to find a way to increase the value of the children’s fruit and vegetable vouchers, which reach 4.7 million kids,” said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers — initially set at $8 per month for moms and $6 per month for children — became a part of food packages in all 50 states on Oct. 1.

The new benefit will be worth an additional $41 million in additional fruit and vegetable purchases during fiscal 2010, according to United Fresh.

DiSogra said legislation addressing child nutrition programs is expected to be considered early next year.

Legislation extending child nutrition programs through Sept. 30 was approved by Congress, but DiSogra said it is likely Congress will want to look at completing work on that legislation early in 2010.

After more than a decade of negotiation, fruits and vegetables became eligible across the board for WIC on Oct. 1.

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” DiSogra said. “It’s a huge win for fruits and vegetables because we’re finally part of the package.”

The industry sees opportunity for an increase in overall consumption, said Bil Goldfield, communications manager for Dole Food Co., Westlake Village, Calif. It makes sense for fresh produce to be part of the program.

“By broadening the offerings in the program, we expect to see WIC moms purchase a wide variety of nutrient dense fresh produce items from across the industry, and increase their overall consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

In June, WIC recipients could start shopping farmers markets in New York.

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