The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, provides supplemental foods that provide specific nutrients, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, and health and social service referrals to approximately 8 million people in the United States.
Beginning operations in 1974 and enacted into legislation in 1975, the program’s mission has remained constant: to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services. At the same time, the goals of the program have evolved over the past 40 years to promote breastfeeding; provide a wider variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; and accommodate cultural eating patterns of program participants. What follows is a timeline outlining some of the major changes to the food packages since its inception.
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The WIC program was the first federal nutrition assistance program focusing on needs during development and with a required nutrition education component.
Over the next few years, food packages I through VI were established, accommodating the needs of women in different physiological states, children of different ages, and infants at different developmental stages, as well as participants with special medical needs as determined by a physician.
The addition of food package VII, emphasizing meeting the needs of breastfeeding mothers, was the most substantive change made to the program between 1975 and issuance of the interim rule in 2007.
The food packages were modified to create food package VII (for fully breastfeeding women). Carrots and canned tuna were added, along with increased amounts of juice, cheese, legumes, and peanut butter for women who exclusively breastfeed their infant. To learn more about the contents of WIC food packages at this point in time, see page 24 in WIC Food Packages: Time for a Change.
The major revisions to the food packages laid out in the IOM report “WIC Food Packages: Time for a Change” were the first significant revisions proposed since the program’s inception.
Major revisions to the food packages are proposed, including the addition of a voucher for vegetables and fruits, additional whole grain options, lower fat milks for all participants 2 years of age and older, reductions in eggs and cheese, and reduced amounts of juice and infant formula.
* As of March 2016, the Health and Medicine Division continues the consensus studies and convening activities previously undertaken by the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The revised food packages laid out in the Interim Rule, which were implemented in 2009, resulted in dramatic changes to the nutrient density of the food packages.
The new food packages include all of the 2006 IOM recommendations with a few exceptions (See Table C-1 in the MOST RECENT report for more detail.)
The goal of the 2009 revised food packages was to improve alignment with dietary guidance and cultural suitability by including a cash value voucher for the purchase of vegetables and fruits, adding many more options for food categories, and reducing some foods.
The 2007 interim regulations for the WIC food packages are finalized in 2014.
The CVV for children is increased from $6 to $8, and only skim and low-fat milks are permitted as standard issuance for children at least 2 years of age and women. Whole-wheat pasta was added as a whole grain option.
In accordance with the final regulation, 1 quart of milk may be substituted with 1 quart of yogurt. States are required to include white potatoes to be eligible for purchase with the cash value voucher.
One quart of yogurt is permitted, in alignment with the IOM (2006) recommendation. The USDA requirement to allow white potatoes aligns with the 2015 IOM letter report. This letter report updated the IOM 2006 recommendation to disallow white potatoes, on the basis that starchy vegetable intakes were below the amounts recommended in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Built on the 2009 changes, the new recommendations improve the balance among the food groups within the packages and further increase choice and flexibility. The recommendations also increase culturally suitable options in order to further promote redemption and consumption.
The new recommendations better align with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans in:
The new recommendations increase flexibility and substantially enhance the packages for women who choose to breastfeed.
Applies the “supplemental” concept to align the food packages with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: increased amounts of the cash value voucher (CVV) for the purchase of vegetables and fruits; fish is included in nearly all packages; juice and milk are reduced; additional substitution options are included (2 quarts yogurt for milk; CVV for juice and infant food vegetables and fruits; fish for infant food meats) and grain choices are expanded (added teff, buckwheat, corn meal, and corn masa flour). New total sugars limits are outlined for some foods.
Also supports breastfeeding by enhancing the package for fully breastfeeding women and creating a new partially breastfeeding package for women who are mostly breastfeeding. Tailoring of infant formula amounts is recommended.