Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Colorado WIC has more food options to improve nutrition for low-income women and children

Recent federal confirmation of interim food choices, along with some new options, offer participants of the Colorado Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program more flexibility and better nutrition. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced improvements to the WIC food package in March as part of continued efforts to improve nutrition for nearly 100,000 of the state’s low-income mothers and children.

“Soon, every WIC mother will have better access to the nutrients she needs for a healthy pregnancy and birth,” said Patricia Daniluk, director of Colorado WIC at the state health department. “WIC children will have a better chance to grow up healthy and be ready to learn when they start school.”
During the past several years, the USDA has improved nutrition flexibility for state WIC programs, adding fresh fruit and vegetable, whole grain and low-fat milk options for participants.

On Feb. 28, USDA made those changes permanent, increased the fresh fruit and vegetable stipend from $6 to $8 per child and expanded food options to include:
Fresh fruits and vegetables in lieu of a portion of jarred infant food for older infants
Whole wheat pasta as a whole grain option
Yogurt as a partial milk substitute
Jack mackerel added to the fish options
Requirements of only 1% or nonfat milk for children older than 2 years and women

Along with the expanded options, the USDA made permanent some interim food options that were established in 2009:

  • Addition of fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grain cereals and breads
  • Baby foods – fruits and vegetables for all infants and meat for exclusively breastfed infants
  • Soy beverage and tofu as a milk substitute
  • Brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, soft corn or whole wheat tortillas as a substitute for whole wheat bread
  • Canned beans as a substitute for dried beans
  • Canned salmon, sardines and mackerel as a substitute for canned tuna
  • Reduced quantities of milk, eggs, juice and cheese for women and children. Juice is eliminated from infant packages.
  • Reduced quantities of infant formula for breastfed and older infants.

Recent research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the WIC food package as a contributing factor in the decline in obesity rates among low-income preschoolers in many states. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said WIC food package updates were made to meet the diverse nutritional needs of mothers and young children and are based on the recommendations of the National Academies” Institute of Medicine, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and thousands of public comments.

Colorado WIC will review recent USDA changes and plan statewide implementation to ensure food packages meet the needs of Colorado WIC participants.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a federally funded program that provides nutrition and breastfeeding education, nutritious foods and improved health care for low- and moderate-income women and children with, or at risk of developing, nutrition-related health problems. In Colorado, 94,000 participants receive WIC benefits each month.

More information about the changes and the WIC program can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/wic. Colorado WIC information can be found at www.ColoradoWIC.com.

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