Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen clear signs that the produce industry’s leadership in nutrition policy and our advocacy to increase fruit and vegetable consumption to improve nutrition is paying off.
We’ve seen the fruit and vegetable purchasing power of WIC families increase to about $1 billion per year and new research that shows that kids are eating more fruits and vegetables now that healthier school lunch standards are in place.
These milestones, along with others, mark truly significant progress in our goal of a healthier America through increased fruit and vegetable consumption.
We’ve made real progress in adding more fruits and vegetables to the WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) food package, but it has taken considerable time.
Since it was created in 1974, WIC has provided nutritional assistance to low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women and their infants and children. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables weren’t originally included in the WIC food package. Adding fresh produce to WIC seemed a logical way to improve the overall quality of WIC foods, but the gears move slowly in Washington, D.C.
For more than a decade, United Fresh and its members have played a leadership role in urging USDA to update WIC foods to include fruits and vegetables.
Time for a change
The Institute of Medicine’s 2005 report “WIC Foods: Time for A Change” provided scientific recommendations to USDA that included adding a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to WIC. United and the National WIC Association provided USDA with examples and research to demonstrate that adding fruits and vegetables to WIC would work. In 2009, regulations that added fruit and vegetable vouchers to WIC went into effect.
For the last several years we have continued to work closely with the WIC association and others to advocate for increasing the value of fruit and vegetable vouchers for 4.6 million WIC children.
Success became official Feb. 28 when USDA published the Final Rule on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: Revisions to the WIC Food Package.
The rule increases the cash value of the fruit and vegetable vouchers for children to $8 per month. It also allows WIC mothers to receive a voucher for fresh fruits and vegetables instead of jarred baby food for their older infants.
Plus, it permits WIC moms to add cash at check out to their fruit and vegetable vouchers to maximize their fruit and vegetable purchases. The goal of all of these improvements is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among young children.