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WIC Food Packages: Time for a Change
Providing fruits and vegetables, with both fresh and processed options that have minimal restrictions on variety and choice;
Promoting the consumption of whole fruits and vegetables as the major forms in this food group;
Including only whole grain products in the breads and cereal food group;
Reducing saturated fat, cholesterol, total fat, and, in some cases, calories;
Specifying no added sugars or limitations on the amounts of caloric sweeteners allowed (to promote higher nutrient density and limit calories);
Including options that contain no added salt or are reduced in sodium (to limit salt, that is, sodium); and
Addressing container size as related to food safety concerns.
Overall, the emphasis on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-reduced milk and milk products are major steps in improving consistency of the WIC food packages with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The addition of fresh fruits and vegetables merits special attention. To improve the consumption of these foods and the appeal of this option, especially for people of different cultural backgrounds, the committee recommends minimal restrictions on participant choice. To make the fresh produce option workable for retail vendors, the committee recommends that it be implemented through cash-value vouchers in small denominations. Because a fresh produce option might not be practical in some situations, the committee also recommends a processed option and a combined fresh and processed option for fruits and vegetables.4 Processed options would be obtained using the standard food instrument.
Proposed Food Packages Have Features with Wide Appeal to Diverse Populations
Among the features that may improve the incentive value of the WIC food packages and encourage participants to consume the foods provided are:
a wider variety of foods; and
more participant choices.
The committee’s primary recommendation includes fresh fruits and vegetable rather than processed forms because of the wider variety available in most locations and the lower sodium content of likely choices.