USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): A New Look at Key Questions 10 Years After USDA Added Whole-Grain Bread to WIC Food Packages in 2009
By Stewart H, Hyman J, Mclaughlin P, Dong D
Given that most Americans do not consume enough whole grains to satisfy Federal dietary recommendations, in 2009, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) altered its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by adding 100-percent whole-wheat bread (and other whole-grain options like brown rice) to food packages for children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Published research suggests that participant diet quality has likely improved, but study results are mixed. Other research has explored the availability and cost of whole-grain products in the WIC-allowed, 1-pound (16-ounce) package size at retail stores. In 2014, USDA asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to convene a committee of experts to conduct an independent, comprehensive scientific review of WIC food packages and recommend cost-neutral changes in line with the nutritional status and food and nutrition needs of the WIC-eligible population. In 2017, that committee recommended a number of changes to participants’ food assistance benefits. These include offering bread and other whole-grain products in more standard package sizes. Concurrent to NASEM’s review of the WIC food package, the Agricultural Act of 2014 required the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to expand to include infants and toddlers from birth to 2 years, as well as women who are pregnant, beginning with the 2020 edition. USDA will consider changes to the WIC food packages once this work is complete. In this study, we use a combination of store- and household level purchase data to revisit some key questions about WIC participants’ whole-grain benefits. We focus on bread in a case study of the products that may be purchased with these benefits.
September 5, 2019
Stewart H, Hyman J, Mclaughlin P, Dong D (2019). USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): A New Look at Key Questions 10 Years After USDA Added Whole-Grain Bread to WIC Food Packages in 2009.Economic Research Report No. EER-268, p.p. 29. Available online: https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=93650