National WIC Association calls for a permanent increase in fruit and vegetable benefits
Give the women and children more fresh produce.
That is one of the messages in a 22-page report from the National WIC Association
The report, called, WIC Food Package: Impacts and Recommendations to Advance Nutrition Security, calls for a doubling of the value of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Women Infants and Children food package, including a permanent increase in the benefit for fruits and vegetables.
Introduced in 2007, the report said the Cash Value Benefit (CVB) is unique in providing a set cash benefit for redemption of vegetables and fruits, compared to other food package items that are prescribed as a fixed quantity.
The model promotes convenience and choice, although it can limit the range of options in high food-cost locations such as Alaska and Hawaii, according to the report. The Cash Value Benefit is one of the highest redeemed categories, with a 77% redemption rate between 2013 and 2016, according to NWA. The CVB costs are calculated based on the Consumer Price Index for fresh vegetables and fruits, with current values set at $9 for children and $11 for all adult food packages.
With the urging of NWA and with the support of the Biden Administration and Congress, WIC tripled the value of the fruit and vegetable benefit through the summer to help families bounce back through the COVID pandemic.
President Biden also has called for Congress to extend these increased benefit levels through fiscal year 2022, or through September 2022.
NWA said in a news release that it supports the White House’s proposed extension of this increase through fiscal year 2022 but said the bumped-up fruit and vegetable benefit needs to continue “long after the shadow of COVID-19 is gone.”
“The WIC food package is the carrot that brings moms, their babies, and young children to WIC,” Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association said in the statement. “There, they find nutrition professionals who deliver invaluable nutrition supports and connect them to crucial health care and social services But the carrot is no longer enough. To make the juice worth the squeeze, families need a whole basket of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, eggs, and other healthy foods. Now is the time to make meaningful investment in the best hook to get more moms and their families into WIC – doubling the value of the WIC food package.”
Enhancing WIC access and benefits are the most straightforward steps to building stronger nutrition security for millions of families, the NWA said.
The NWA recommends setting the CVB at $35 for Food Package IV-A (Child Age One), $38 for Food Package IV-B (Child Age Two to Five), $41 for Food Package VI (Postpartum), and $48 for Food Packages V (Pregnant/ Mostly Breastfeeding) and VII (Fully Breastfeeding).
USDA has signaled it intends to revise the WIC food packages in fiscal year 2022 and NWA urged quick action to increase the WIC food package.
“With increased investment, NWA is confident that doubling WIC’s food benefit will bring more families closer to the nutrient recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – a critical step to further reduce rates of childhood obesity, bring down healthcare costs, and set up our children for future life success,” Greenaway said in the statement. “This report and its recommendations point policymakers toward real solutions to expanding the value of the food package, ensuring that WIC families get real value for their efforts, and that America gets the full bang for investing in WIC families.”