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WIC Food Packages: Time for a Change
their mothers. In fiscal year 2003, the cost of supplemental food for the WIC program was $3.2 billion.
Many changes have occurred since the WIC program began.
Advances have occurred in nutrition knowledge and its application.
The food supply has expanded, and dietary patterns have changed.
The WIC program has grown dramatically, and it serves a more culturally diverse population.
Obesity has emerged as a major public health problem.
Despite these many changes, the WIC food packages have remained largely unchanged. Thus, it is time to address revisions in the WIC food packages that would enable the WIC program’s potential to be realized more completely.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service charged the Institute of Medicine’s Committee to Review the WIC Food Packages with conducting a two-phase evaluation of the WIC food packages. In Phase I, the committee was tasked with reviewing the nutritional needs of population subgroups participating in the WIC program, assessing supplemental nutrition needs of these subgroups, and proposing priority nutrients and general nutrition recommendations. In Phase II, the committee was tasked with using the initial assessment to recommend specific changes to WIC food packages. In doing so, the committee was charged with considering the supplemental nature of the WIC program and making recommendations that are culturally suitable, non-burdensome to administration, efficient for nationwide distribution and vendor checkout, and cost-neutral. In addition, the committee was to consider burdens and incentives for eligible families and the role of the food packages in reinforcing nutrition education, breastfeeding, and prevention of chronic disease.
CRITERIA AND PRIORITIES FOR REVISIONS
During Phase I of the project, the committee developed the criteria shown in Box ES-1 to guide its work. It also used various data sources to identify nutrients and food groups to try to increase or decrease in the food packages (called priority nutrients and priority food groups), with the goal of improving the nutrition of WIC participants. The committee’s preliminary report, released in August 2004, included those findings. Subsequently, the committee received numerous public comments about the proposed