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US dairy groups react to dairy cutbacks in USDA WIC feeding program

Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

09-Jan-2017
Last updated on 10-Jan-2017 at 10:05 GMT2017-01-10T10:05:29Z

The quantities of milk provided under the WIC feeding program were reduced from 85% to 119% to between 71% and 75% of recommended intakes. ©iStock/CherriesJD
The quantities of milk provided under the WIC feeding program were reduced from 85% to 119% to between 71% and 75% of recommended intakes. ©iStock/CherriesJD

US dairy groups have raised concern over the latest proposed changes by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in the USDA’s WIC (women, infants, and children) feeding program guidelines.

The quantities of milk provided under the program have been reduced to 71-75% from 85% to 119% of recommended intakes. 

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service began WIC with the goal of safeguarding the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to five-years-old who are at a nutritional disadvantage, by providing certain food products to supplement their diets, as well access to healthcare resources. The WIC program provides roughly $6bn of food annually to eligible women, infants, and children.

The US Congress mandates that the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA re-evaluates the WIC feeding program every 10 years. Under its latest revaluation conducted by NAS, a move to remove whole milk for all WIC participants except one-year-old children was proposed.  

“To improve balance among food groups, most foods that are currently provided in more-than-supplemental amounts are reduced (i.e. dairy [milk] and infant foods),” the document stated.

The final revised report proposed increasing cash value vouchers for fruits and vegetables to better meet nutrition gaps of potassium and fiber. The revised document also included substituting one quart of yogurt for milk.

Mixed response from US dairy groups

Leaders of major dairy groups responded to the revisions by stressing that their food and beverage products are nutritionally crucial to meeting the USDA Dietary Guidelines.

“The NAS Committee’s recommendations would undermine the nutritional value of the WIC program to needy Americans. It is contradictory that the NAS report would both acknowledge that many WIC participants are not getting enough milk, yet at the same time suggest further reducing the milk served through the program,” Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, and Michael Dykes, IDFA president and CEO, said in a joint statement.

“To its credit, the committee also made recommendations that encourage dairy consumption by WIC participants, including continuing to allow the substitution of cheese, and expanding options for substituting yogurt, as well as making it easier for participants to purchase yogurt in popular sizes. The committee also recognized that many plant-based beverages, such as those derived from almonds and rice, are not nutritionally equivalent to milk.”

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