USDA Updates Foods Provided Via WIC

USDA updated the list and amounts of foods eligible for purchase by WIC this week and outlined how the additional $1B that was added to the WIC program in the last national budget bill will be used.

WIC is very different from SNAP (aka food stamps). SNAP is a nutrition assistance program that allows folks to buy virtually any food. By contrast, WIC provides prescribed foods specifically designed to supplement the foods and beverages participants already consume and fill in key nutritional gaps to support healthy growth and development.

The big change USDA made this week is to increase the amount and variety of healthy foods available for purchase, providing participants with up to four times the amount they would otherwise receive for some kinds of healthy foods.

Other enhancements include:

  • Expanding whole grain options to include foods like quinoa, blue cornmeal;
  • Providing more convenience and options within the dairy category, including flexibility on package sizes and non-dairy substitution options;
  • Including canned fish in more food packages; and
  • Adding more flexibility for infant formula provided to partially breastfed infants to support moms’ individual breastfeeding goals.

The changes will provide participants with a wider variety of foods to support healthy dietary patterns and allow WIC state agencies more flexibility to tailor the food packages to accommodate personal and cultural food preferences and special dietary needs – making the program more appealing for current and potential participants.

WIC is a federally funded program that supplies important nutritional services and support for eligible pregnant and postpartum individuals and their children until age 5. WIC uses nutritional education, breastfeeding support, nutrition help, and referrals to more services as mechanisms to improve the health of the low-income individuals it serves.

Family income needs to be below 185% of the federal poverty limit in order to qualify (slightly more generous than AZ’s Medicaid participation standard). WIC money goes to states who further manage the overall program. ADHS mostly distributes the money to the county health departments and federally qualified health centers to implement WIC programming.

ADHS will have two years to implement these changes, allowing time to engage with key partners on how best to tailor the new food packages to meet the needs of participants.

WIC – Building Healthy Foundations Infographic

Studies suggest that every $1 spent on WIC results in up to a $3.13 reduction in spending for Medicaid programs. This is particularly pertinent given the large overlap between WIC and Medicaid recipients. Reductions in poor health outcomes because of nutrition aid programs such as WIC are also expected to save significant amounts in private healthcare as well.

WIC at a Glance