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WIC changes backed by AAP include boost to fruit, vegetable allowances

April 11, 2024

Changes to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were announced Tuesday, including many supported by the AAP such as increases in monthly cash allowances for fruits and vegetables, reductions in juice and milk allowances, and an expansion of whole grain options.

The changes to WIC food packages made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Nutrition Service are expected to take effect about 24 months after publication of a final rule in the Federal Register. AAP recommendations are cited throughout the rule.

“Pediatricians know firsthand the importance of the WIC program in providing nutritious, healthy foods for mothers, babies and young children, regularly referring our own patients to the program,” said AAP President Benjamin D. Hoffman, M.D., FAAP. “The American Academy of Pediatrics applauds USDA for taking steps to update the food packages so they reflect the best available science and can most effectively support the lifelong health of families enrolled in the program.”

WIC helps feed millions of low-income women and children across the U.S. by providing food packages that address specific nutritional needs of pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk.

Benefit amounts for fruits and vegetables will more than quadruple for some WIC participants. Current monthly allowances are $9 for children and $11 for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding mothers. The new rule allows $24 for children, $43 for pregnant and postpartum mothers, and $47 for breastfeeding mothers, adjusted annually for inflation.

AAP Immediate Past President Sandy L. Chung, M.D., FAAP, emphasized fruits and vegetables in a 2023 letter to the USDA commenting on changes first proposed two years ago.

“Higher fruit and vegetable issuance is critical for improving health outcomes and closing intake disparities,” Dr. Chung wrote. “Though WIC is a supplemental program, the value of the fruit and vegetable benefit is often not enough to ensure that families have regular access to nutritious foods, which are often higher-cost and out of reach for many low-income families.”

The changes also expand options to include fresh herbs and require WIC vendors to stock three varieties of vegetables, up from two.

The reduction in juice allowance was made to better align with AAP recommendations and goes hand in hand with the fruit and vegetable increase. The rule notes that the AAP recommends fruit intake come largely from whole fruit, since fiber and other plant-based compounds are lost during juice processing.

Other changes backed by the AAP include:

  • reductions in milk allowances, including the omission of flavored milk;
  • expansion of whole grain options, including quinoa and teff;
  • making canned fish available to children beginning at 1 year of age;
  • the addition of canned beans;
  • the substitution of peanut butter, tofu and legumes for eggs; and
  • greater flexibility in WIC package sizes.

The rule also reduces allowances for infant cereals, saying the change was made “to better align with AAP recommendations.” The current infant cereal allowance is 150% of the maximum amount recommended by the AAP.

Additionally, the rule adds flexibilities to better support participants’ breastfeeding goals, including flexibility in the amount of formula provided for partially breastfed infants and creating a separate and enhanced food package for women who are mostly, but not exclusively, breastfeeding.  

Late last year, the AAP sent a letter to congressional leaders advocating for additional funding for WIC due to increased participation in the program and higher food costs.

“In addition to receiving nutritious foods, children who receive WIC have improved birth outcomes, increased rates of immunization, and better access to health care through a medical home,” the letter read. “We know that WIC has been shown to result in immediate healthcare cost savings and sets the trajectory for a healthier next generation.”

Congress provided this funding in March, ensuring WIC programs will not have to turn away those who are eligible for the program.


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