National WIC Association

NWA Deeply Disappointed Potatoes Mandated in WIC

May 28, 2014

The National WIC Association (NWA) is extremely disappointed that members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees mandated a food— white potatoes—into the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages in their appropriations or WIC funding bills. This is the first time in the 40 year history of the WIC program Congress has inserted itself in the science of the food package, undermining the supplemental design of the food packages and placing health outcomes at risk.

The white potato is not currently a WIC-approved food based upon a nutritional review and recommendations by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.  Congressional action, ignoring the science process and the recommendations of health and nutrition professionals, has opened wide the door for industry lobbyists to push their products, potentially including unhealthy and junk foods in the WIC food package. If the quality of the food package is diminished, so too will WIC’s mission be challenged in reducing nutrition-related health issues. 

"WIC has contributed to the reduction of nutrition related diseases and obesity rates among young children. It works because it is a science-based program that is evidence-driven," said Theresa Landau, MS, RD,CDN, and Chair of NWA's Board of Directors.

“This is not a debate about whether the potato is nutritious or not,” said NWA's President and CEO The Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway. “It’s about compromising the scientific integrity of the WIC food package and putting the effectiveness of WIC in danger.”

WIC, which provides nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support, medical and social services referrals, and healthy foods (food packages), and is regarded as one of the most successful of all federal programs with a 72% public approval rating.  A significant body of research has consistently found that WIC contributes to healthier birth outcomes and improved nutrition, while reducing our nation’s health care costs. An important reason for WIC’s success is that the program provides a science-based food package to supplement and enhance the diets of women and young children, providing only foods that offer nutrients that tend to be missing from their diets.

WIC - the nation's premier public health nutrition program - serves nearly 9 million women, infants, and children each month, thru 12,200 dedicated service provider agencies in every state and U.S. Territory in the nation to eligible, low-income families. The Program is designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behaviors and improve health outcomes. WIC celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.