What they are saying:  Biden-Harris administration announces finalized science-driven updates to foods provided through WIC

On Tuesday, April 9, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced finalized updates to the foods prescribed to participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC.

Nutrition leaders and mothers from across the country praised USDA’s finalized updates to the WIC food package and the positive implications it will have for women, infants, and young children who rely on this vital program. Here’s what they’re saying:

Solianna Meaza, Acting Initiative Director of 1,000 Days: “Nutrition plays a foundational role in a child’s development, with good nutrition in a child’s first 1,000 days setting them up for a healthy, fulfilled and productive life. WIC is crucial to the nutrition security of millions of women, infants, and children across the country. USDA’s updates to the WIC food package allows millions of parents to access more nutritious food and introduce a much greater variety of healthy foods to their young children. We’re pleased that these science-based updates especially focus on strengthening nutritional quality and value, which will enhance WIC’s efforts to build a foundation of healthy eating for millions of participants nationwide.”

Lauri Wright, RDN, 2023-2024 President, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “WIC changes the lives of millions of participants for the better every day. WIC improves health outcomes by providing nutritious foods, nutrition education and referrals to health care, supporting healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding. The changes announced in the updated food packages will help ensure that pregnant women, mothers, babies and children have access to foods with important nutrients to improve diet quality while acknowledging cultural food preferences and customs.”

Bruce Schactler, Director, Alaska Seafood: “The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute has been eagerly anticipating the release of the proposed rule updating the WIC packages. This is the first update since 2009 and will go a long way to improving nutrition equity and access to health-promoting seafood for all WIC participant groups.”

Aligning for Health: “Today, the @USDA announced that it has finalized updates to the #WIC food packages to align with the latest dietary science. We look forward to seeing the impact this step will have on the health and well-being of the 6.6 million moms, babies, and young children in WIC!”

Eric Mitchell, President, Alliance to End Hunger: “Alliance to End Hunger applauds USDA’s issuance of updated regulations for WIC food packages. This move, which includes making permanent the impactful increases in WIC’s fruit and vegetable benefits, will deliver big results for millions of families. The new food packages build on the best nutrition science to strengthen WIC’s impressive food security and health impacts, ensuring children a strong start in life. Ultimately, this worthwhile investment will benefit us all since WIC reduces future health care burdens.”

Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics: “Pediatricians know first-hand 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. The WIC program and its science-based food packages have proven benefits that provide children with a healthy start at life. 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.”

Rasma I. Zvaners, Vice President, Government Relations, American Bakers Association: “The 2009 update to include whole grain bread in WIC food packages has significantly improved health outcomes for infants, children, and mothers. Notably, the addition has increased whole grain consumption and reduced childhood obesity among WIC-enrolled toddlers. By prioritizing science-based approaches and aligning federal feeding programs with national dietary guidelines, WIC can continue to improve the health outcomes of vulnerable populations across the United States.”

Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association: “WIC has a proven track record when it comes to promoting the health and development of pregnant, post-partum and breastfeeding people and young children. The USDA’s updated food package will build on the program’s long history of success in advancing maternal and child health and ensure that all children get a healthy start in life.”

Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association: “Programs like WIC have a proven record of increasing nutrition security for vulnerable women, children and families. Access to healthy food is a key social determinant of health with a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. APHA wholeheartedly supports the updates to the WIC food package made in USDA’s final rule that would increase access to healthy food for families across the nation.”

Tim D. McGreevy, CEO, USA Pulses (American Pulse Association, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, U.S. Pea, and Lentil Trade Association): “The U.S. pulse industry extends our congratulations to USDA on publishing their final rule to revise the WIC food packages. We’re pleased to see the USDA continue to acknowledge the unique role of pulse crops (beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas) in providing key nutrients to women, infants, and children.”

Kevin Schalinske, PhD, President, American Society for Nutrition: “The American Society for Nutrition supports USDA’s efforts to better align the WIC food package with current nutrition science and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The WIC food package plays a fundamental role in improving public health for so many women, infants, and children.”

Josh Gackle, President, American Soybean Association: “As a high-quality, plant-based protein, U.S. soy can play an integral role in strengthening diets and food security. Soyfoods are low in saturated fat and cholesterol free, which provides a nutritious and satisfying addition to any diet. ASA supports improving nutrition and food security at home and abroad by expanding access to soy protein in foods and beverages, including foods used in federal nutrition programs like WIC.”

Ashley Oviatt, Mother from California:  “As a mom of three, WIC is essential to my family’s health and nutrition. I’ve had gestational diabetes during each of my pregnancies, requiring me to follow a strict diet to reduce my risk of birth defects or miscarriage. Without WIC, I would not be able to afford the nutritious options I need. I would likely need to skip meals or rely on junk food to feed myself and my children. But because of WIC’s support, I’m able to keep fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains on my family’s table. This program has a huge impact for so many families like mine, and I’m thrilled that the new improvements will make it even stronger.”

Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RDN, Past-President, Association of Public Health Nutritionists: “Nearly half of US infants and more than one in four US children participate in the WIC program. WIC program food packages are tailored to optimize the participants’ dietary intake, including the provision of fruits and vegetables, seafood, and legumes, which most infants and children lack in their diets. Given the critical role that nutrition in early childhood plays in brain development, it is imperative that the WIC program be expanded to assure that all eligible infants and children are provided with the foods and nutrients they need to reach their potential.”

Christi Mackie, Vice President, Community Health and Prevention, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: “The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is an essential program that expands nutrition security and improves the health and well-being for low-income families. Investing in WIC’s science-based efforts improves dietary quality and flexibility for WIC recipients, providing access to foods that unlock a healthy future.”

Becky Adams, DrPH, RD, LD, CDCES, President, Association of State Public Health Nutritionists: “As the voice for state public health nutrition leaders across the nation, ASPHN supports the WIC Program’s food package rule. Healthy eating is the foundation for good health and disease prevention. The WIC Program’s science-based standards are designed and implemented to guide and support WIC families in the incorporation of healthier foods, especially fruits and vegetables. As our nation grapples with a vegetable and fruit consumption crisis—where roughly 90 percent of Americans do not meet the recommended daily servings for fruits and vegetables — the food package rule will enhance the impact of WIC to achieve a vital public health priority through significant system change.”

Heather Taylor, Managing Director, Bread for the World: “Bread for the World strongly supports USDA’s proposed rule to revise food packages issued through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children . For decades, WIC has provided benefits for healthy foods and nutrition services that reach millions of pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children across the country every year.”

Karen Farley, RDN, IBCLC, Executive Director, California WIC Association: “The release of the updated WIC food package is great news as we celebrate WIC’s fiftieth anniversary! The food package, based on science and medicine, supports continued improved population health outcomes, a hallmark of WIC’s success. Grocery stores and farmer’s markets have healthy WIC foods to provide their communities, including the favorite, fruits and vegetables! Shoppers have lots of choices and more options for cultural food ways. Medical providers can be confident that WIC foods align with nutrition recommendations for pregnancy and postpartum, infancy and childhood. Families will be supported for a healthy start that can last for generations. Good news all around!”

Cara Brumfield, Director of the Public Benefits Justice Team, Center for Law and Social Policy: “The WIC program is an essential resource for families who need nutritional support and lack access to healthy and affordable food. Special thanks to the USDA for updating the WIC food packages. We especially applaud the added flexibility to accommodate participants’ personal and cultural food preferences. We are hopeful that the updates to the food packages will make the program stronger and better able to meet the diverse needs of families.”

Dr. Peter Lurie, Executive Director, President, Center for Science in the Public Interest: “The updates to the WIC food package – particularly the increase in fruit and vegetable benefits and stronger nutrition standards – will help millions of women, infants, and children participating in the program get the nutrition they need while maintaining participant choice and honoring cultural food preferences. We applaud USDA for prioritizing evidence-based updates that promote good health.”

Sharon Parrott, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Making the increased fruit and vegetable benefit permanent and providing greater flexibility to accommodate participants’ cultural food preferences and other needs will bolster WIC’s strong track record of improving the nutrition and health of low-income families with young children. These evidence-based updates paired with Congress’ commitment to fully fund WIC and efforts to connect more eligible families to WIC can help drive better outcomes for young children and their parents.”

Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, Executive Director, Children’s HealthWatch: “At Children’s HealthWatch our research has shown time and time again the incredible impact WIC has on the health and well-being of young children including more young children with healthier weights, children that are more likely to be food secure, and a reduction in developmental delays. But we know there is still work to be done. The evidence-based improvement made by the USDA will boost families’ ability to provide their young children with a variety of healthy foods to meet their nutritional needs.”

Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs: “The Coalition on Human Needs is pleased that the USDA has moved forward with this important update to the WIC food package. CHN believes that WIC is uniquely suited to help millions of families cope with the rising costs of food and our community has rallied in support of protecting and strengthening WIC. Over the past year, CHN engaged our network of more than 100 national organizations representing human service providers, faith groups, policy experts, and labor, civil rights and other advocates concerned with meeting the needs of people with low incomes to work with anti-hunger leaders to push Congress to prioritize full funding for WIC in FY 2024 appropriations, while our grassroots network sent more than 165,000 emailed letters to Congress. With 13.5 percent of people with children reporting just a month ago that they did not always have enough to eat, these science-based changes to provide more flexibility for parents to purchase nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables and a wider range of whole grains are just what families need now.”

Senator Cory Booker (NJ): “The @USDA is making sure WIC benefits evolve with our understanding of nutrition science. Great to see this update of the food package.”

Rep. Robert C. Scott (VA-03), Ranking Member, Education & The Workforce Committee: “The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is vital for the healthy development of infants, children, and pregnant and postpartum women. The final rule, released by the Department of Agriculture today, will help improve WIC participants access to healthy food by better aligning the food available to participants with the latest science-backed dietary guidelines. The final rule also ensures that supplemental foods can be tailored to accommodate cultural food preferences and special dietary needs. This is particularly important given that the WIC program is in a unique position to improve the health outcomes of low-income families and communities of color, who are often disproportionally impacted by food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease.”

Naomi Fener, NP, MPH, Director, Population Health, Families USA: “Families USA is thrilled to see the Administration’s prioritization of evidence-based changes to improve the WIC program. Nutrition is an important driver of health, and for years WIC has demonstrated positive impacts on maternal and child health, including giving birth to healthier infants and reducing the risk of adverse birth outcomes. This is especially important for Black families, where WIC has demonstrated a greater reduction in infant mortality than in other populations. WIC is a vital program to further improve the overall health of parents, infants, and children.”

Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on Children: “USDA’s final update to the WIC food package provides science-backed changes that set children up for success from the start. WIC improves the health outcomes and lives of millions of pregnant people, babies, and toddlers. This rule codifies a bump in the fruit and vegetable benefit, which has successfully increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that toddlers eat. We applaud USDA for taking these steps to keep our children nourished and healthy.”

Peter Matz, Director, Food & Health Policy, The Food Industry Association: “FMI – The Food Industry Association applauds USDA’s commitment to permanently increasing the monthly cash-value voucher/benefit amounts for fruit and vegetable purchases in the WIC program to reflect 50 percent of the Dietary Guidelines’ recommended fruit and vegetable intake for mothers and children. We also appreciate USDA’s approval of new substitution patterns and package size flexibility, which will improve participant access to and utilization of WIC foods, and expect both rule changes will result in measurable benefits for mothers and young children.”

Kelly Horton, Chief Program Officer, Food Research & Action Center: “FRAC applauds the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its final rule revising the food package for WIC. The updated food package, including a permanent increase in the value of the fruit and vegetable benefit, will have a longstanding positive impact on program participation and health outcomes for WIC participants. We look forward to working with states as they implement this new rule over the next year.”

Cathy Burns, CEO, International Fresh Produce Association: “The International Fresh Produce Association is thrilled with the updated food package, which will improve the overall healthfulness of the WIC program and secure fruit and vegetable access for millions of children and their moms nationwide. The fruit and vegetable benefit is a critical source of nutrition for WIC participants, and IFPA will continue to work with USDA to strengthen the program and safeguard the health and nutrition of some of our nation’s most vulnerable families.”

Lauren Hunter, Mother from Missouri: “My daughter was born prematurely and from the start, she’s struggled to eat and gain weight. WIC has made a tremendous difference in helping us get her on the right growth curve. This program means a lot to my family, and I’m grateful the USDA is taking these actions to strengthen it. I’m especially thrilled that the revised food packages will enhance WIC’s support for fresh produce. Today, my daughter is a toddler who loves fruits and veggies, which I know provide essential nutrients as she grows and develops. But these items are expensive and too often inaccessible for families like mine. These revisions will mean a lot for us and so many other families with young children.”

Representative Linda Sánchez (CA-38): “I’ve always fought hard to support WIC because it provides healthy food to women & children. Today it’s great to see new WIC changes that will allow participants to accommodate dietary needs & cultural preferences, provide a cash bump for fruits & vegetables, and much more!”

Abby J. Leibman, President and CEO, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger: “USDA’s recent changes to the WIC program underscore the effectiveness of federal nutrition assistance programs, which provide critical support to millions of families around the country. The actions of the Biden-Harris Administration build on the longstanding success of WIC, and they will improve and strengthen the program. We are particularly pleased to see a permanent increase to the value of WIC, an enhanced WIC shopping experience, and support for different needs of the diverse WIC population with a greater range of culturally and religiously-appropriate food options. The expansion of seafood, whole grain, and fruit and vegetable options are of particular benefit to populations that face unique barriers to food security including Native American and Alaska Native households, currently serving military families, and single mothers and their children. Making permanent these evidence-based changes to WIC is a vital part of strengthening our country’s safety net and advancing bold solutions to improve the systems that allow hunger to persist.”

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO, MomsRising: “Moms applaud the new updates to WIC because they will mean many more young families can access healthy food and that our economy will be boosted. At this time when the cost of healthy food has skyrocketed, too many are being forced to rely on cheap options that don’t provide the nutrients their children need to thrive. We applaud the USDA’s actions to boost the critical support WIC provides for fruits and vegetables, while enhancing flexibility and choice. These updates will provide a meaningful boost to children’s and families’ health and to our economy as a whole.”

Jennifer McGuire, MS, RDN, Dietitian, National Fisheries Institute: “NFI commends USDA for updating the WIC food packages to reflect longstanding Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. According to USDA, nearly 90 percent of Americans do not eat the recommended 2-3 weekly servings of seafood. But clearly people want to eat more seafood – it has one of the highest redemption rates among all WIC-approved foods. Providing seafood to more WIC participants will help low-income families to eat more fish – an important source of nutrients such as protein and omega-3s – while adding variety and value to the food packages and responding to WIC participants’ requests.”

Stephanie Johnson, RDN, Vice President, Government Relations, National Grocers Association: “The WIC program serves as an essential nutrition safety net for families facing hardship. Independent community grocers across America have long been valuable collaborators with federal and state government agencies in the implementation of WIC. NGA supports USDA’s efforts to modernize the WIC Food Package to allow for flexibility that caters to the needs and preference of consumers, while streamlining the shopping process to benefit both retailers and, most importantly, WIC participants. NGA applauds the inclusion of a permanent increase in fruit and vegetable provisions, which will enhance WIC families’ access to nutritious fresh produce, alongside flexibility in pack sizes for certain foods.”

Cheri Nemec, RDN, CD, CLS, IBC, WIC Project Director, National Indigenous and Native American WIC Coalition / Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council: “The updates to the WIC food packages will have a significant impact on our communities. Making permanent the increase in fruit and vegetable benefits allows families to incorporate the foods that were vital in the diets of our ancestors. We are most excited about the addition of cultural grains. These foods are a representation of culture and health. We believe the foods that our families eat today will impact the health of generations to come. This is truly “food is medicine” in action.”

Georgia Machell, Interim President and CEO, National WIC Association: “For more than 50 years, WIC food packages have served as the cornerstone of good health for millions of women, infants, and young children. The National WIC Association applauds USDA for adhering to an independent, science-based review process that led to these stronger standards, and we urge swift implementation.” (Full Statement) 

Mary J. Novak, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice: “NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice applauds the Biden Administration for taking concrete action to ensure that more than 6 million pregnant people, mothers and their infants, and young children will have greater access to the nutritious food they need to thrive. By increasing resources for cash vouchers, this rule helps families cope with the high cost of healthy food and ensures great health equity. This rule will have a transformative impact on countless lives and affirms our faith’s call to prioritize the well-being of vulnerable families.”

Nicole Flateboe MPH, RDN, Executive Director, Nutrition First: “We urge our elected officials to allow the final rule to move forward without interference from lobbyists and commercial interests. We anticipate that some in specific food industries will push back on these changes, but we remain hopeful that the decision makers will not give in. Across the aisle, we trust that it can be agreed that the only special interest group that deserves an accommodation is the low-income women, infants and children that participate in this program. We will be closely monitoring the final rule’s progress and look forward to its adoption without changes so that the WIC program can continue to demonstrate improved health outcomes with increased choice.”

Amelie Ramirez, Ph.D., Director, Salud America! National Latino Health Equity Program at UT Health San Antonio: “The new WIC food package rule is based on strong scientific evidence. WIC remains one of the nation’s most successful, cost-effective public health nutrition programs. WIC participants, including those who are Hispanic/Latino, are more likely to have a more nutritious diet and better health outcomes, with participation tied to fewer infant deaths, fewer premature births, increased birth weights, and lower health care costs, according to research.”

Sasheena Salvador, Mother from Florida: “I’m a first-time mom, and WIC is a critical source of support for my family. The resources WIC provides are the reason I’m able to eat a balanced diet and incorporate fruits and vegetables into my daily routine, and as my daughter transitions to solid foods, I’m thrilled to instill those habits for her as well. Money is very tight, and WIC has taken a lot of stress off my shoulders. I know firsthand that these improvements will boost the financial security, physical health, and mental health of families across the country.”

Christy Gleason, Vice President of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children: “Save the Children supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final rule on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children food packages, knowing that the enhanced benefits will better support children and families across the U.S. This rule makes permanent the recent increase in fruit and vegetable benefits and provides greater choice and flexibility among products in the WIC food packages. These changes will help to increase access to more nutritious foods and improve health outcomes for children, especially for those living in rural areas.”

Jason Gromley, Senior Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Share Our Strength: “Permanently increasing the WIC Cash Value Benefit is a victory for families. This means more young kids can access the fresh fruits and vegetables they need during a crucial time of development. Participants see the CVB as one of the most valuable benefits in the program, and this improvement reaffirms WIC as an investment in pregnant women, new moms and their young kids. We need to continue to ensure that all eligible families can access these vital nutrition benefits and services.”

Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01)“These updates to WIC— which I advocated for —w ill help moms, pregnant women and children access the healthy and nutritious food they need.”

Trust for America’s Health: “TFAH applauds @USDA for finalizing updates to the WIC package which will ensure parents and young children can more easily access fruits and vegetables and culturally appropriate foods.”

Carmen M. Feliciano, J.D., Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, UnidosUS: “UnidosUS applauds the USDA for finalizing science-based updates to the WIC food packages. These updates, firmly grounded in nutrition science, will enhance access to healthy, affordable foods for millions of low-income families, including many Latino households. By increasing the availability of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, the revised WIC food packages will help combat diet-related diseases that disproportionately impact Latino communities, such as diabetes and obesity. This rule is a critical step towards advancing health equity and ensuring that all families, regardless of income or background, have the opportunity to make healthier food choices. UnidosUS strongly supports the USDA’s evidence-based approach to updating the WIC food packages and urges swift implementation of these much-needed improvements.”

Zakela Mickens, Mother from Florida: “WIC has played a crucial role in my life as well as the lives of others in my community, family, and around the country. As a WIC peer counselor who supports other moms enrolled in the program, I know how essential WIC is for my wider community. The rising cost of fresh food has caused real hardship for many of the families I support, making this program more critical than ever. Especially in rural and urban communities where there may be food desserts. Not having access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables is detrimental to the livelihood of members of my community. WIC helps moms meet their breastfeeding goals, keep fresh, healthy food on the table, and stay afloat financially. I’m thankful the improved food packages will enhance each of these efforts.”

Miriam Calderon, Chief Policy Officer, ZERO TO THREE: “Good nutrition in the earliest and most formative years of a child’s life is critical for healthy development. State of Babies Yearbook data show that 14 percent of young children in America have low or very low food security and our nation must continue to take steps to eliminate food insecurity. WIC consistently serves as a critical support for pregnant people and very young children and is proven to improve nutrition and health. The new rule published by the USDA will have a tremendous impact on families supported by WIC. ZERO TO THREE applauds the administration for taking action on this critical issue.”