National WIC Association

April 9, 2024

USDA Finalizes Changes to WIC Food Packages; National WIC Association Calls for Swift Implementation

WASHINGTON, DC—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced final updates to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages, marking a pivotal moment in the program's history. These changes mark a crucial juncture in the program's esteemed 50-year history, reinforcing WIC's enduring commitment to promoting positive maternal and child health outcomes nationwide through independent, science-based research.

The WIC food packages include specific foods tailored to provide essential nutrients to promote healthy growth and development. These first-in-a-decade modifications are meant to align the food packages with current nutrition science and support equitable access to nutritious foods during crucial life stages. The rule is grounded in evidence-based recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

Updates include increasing the Cash Value Benefit for fruits and vegetables, increasing access to culturally-appropriate foods and adding more flexibility and choices for participants.

The following is a statement from Georgia Machell, interim president and CEO of the National WIC Association, in response to USDA’s release of a final rule updating nutrition standards for the WIC food packages.

“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.

We are pleased that USDA’s final rule makes permanent the enhanced Cash Value Benefit that has in the past few years helped participants afford more fruits and vegetables. A survey released today by the National WIC Association finds that access to fruits and vegetables is the top reason why WIC participants join the program; in a time of rising food insecurity and high food costs, increasing participants’ purchasing power for healthy foods is critical. The updates also provide participants with greater choice and flexibility, including a more comprehensive list of culturally appropriate food options, that will make it easier for participants to maximize their benefits.

The National WIC Association also encourages USDA to explore options for implementation of additional scientific recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) that were not included in the final rule, including moving to 100% whole grain rich cereals. Further, we urge USDA to provide technical assistance and support to those states wishing to implement additional NASEM recommendations not included in the final rule.

Past updates to the WIC food package have resulted in significant health benefits. Research shows that participants purchased healthier foods, and WIC-authorized stores carried healthier products, as a result of updates implemented in 2009. In the decade that followed, obesity rates among children ages 2 to 4 participating in WIC declined nationwide. We are confident that these newest updates will yield similarly positive outcomes, and we encourage independent evaluations to document their efficacy.

Congress’ recent infusion of an additional $1 billion in funding ensures that WIC will remain available for anyone eligible to join the program. The updates to the WIC food package build on that success, and are an important reminder that supporting the health and well-being of families across the country is an investment always worth making.”

NWA was joined in celebrating the final rule by a broad array of partners, including anti-hunger and nutrition advocates, public health organizations, civil rights groups, human needs advocates, industry leaders, state WIC associations, policy experts, and more.

“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.” – Cheri Nemec, RDN, CD, CLS, IBC, WIC Project Director, National Indigenous and Native American WIC Coalition / Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council

“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.” – Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics

“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.” – Lauri Wright, RDN, 2023-2024 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

“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." – Kevin Schalinske, PhD, President, American Society for Nutrition

“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." – Becky Adams, DrPH, RD, LD, CDCES, President of the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN)

“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." – Jamie Stang, PhD, MPH, RDN, Past-President of the Association of Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN)

“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.” – Georges C. Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

“The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) 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.” – Christi Mackie, vice president, community health and prevention for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

“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.” – Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association

“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.” – Naomi Fener, NP, MPH, Director, Population Health, Families USA

“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.” – Sharon Parrott, President, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

“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.” – Dr. Peter Lurie, Executive Director and President of the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“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!” – Karen Farley, RDN, IBCLC, Executive Director, California WIC Association

“Nutrition First, Washington State’s WIC Association, celebrates the release of the final rule from the USDA to update the WIC food package, adopting the unbiased recommendations made through a comprehensive scientific review. The proposed food package demonstrates WIC’s commitment to improving health outcomes of our participants by providing nutrient rich, culturally relevant foods, and allowing for participant customization based upon their own preferences and needs, such as allergies or traditions. All while remaining cost neutral! 

“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.” – Nicole Flateboe MPH, RDN, Executive Director, Nutrition First

“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.” – Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus on 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 (WIC) 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.” – Christy Gleason, Vice President of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at Save the Children

“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.” – Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch

"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," said MomsRising Executive Director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. "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." – Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director/CEO, MomsRising

“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% 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.”-- Miriam Calderon, Chief Policy Officer, ZERO TO THREE

“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.” – Solianna Meaza, Acting Initiative Director of 1,000 Days.

“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.” – Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs.

“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.” – Cara Brumfield, Director of the Public Benefits Justice Team, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

"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." – Eric Mitchell, President, Alliance to End Hunger

"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." – Kelly Horton, Chief Program Officer, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC)

“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.” – Jason Gromley, Senior Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, Share Our Strength

“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.” – Abby J. Leibman, President & CEO of MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

“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 (WIC). 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.

“WIC is especially crucial for families with young children — for instance, the program currently serves about half of all infants born in the United States, with monthly food assistance to supplement participants’ diets with specific nutrients like cereal, fruits, and vegetables. 

“WIC participation lowers the risk of infant mortality and premature birth, helps with proper brain development for young children that can set the stage for longer-term academic success, and ensures families have increased access to healthcare services such as well-child visits and pediatric screenings. Following nutrition standard updates to the WIC food package in 2009, participants reported greater access to and more purchases of healthier foods, and obesity rates among children ages 2 to 4 on WIC declined nationwide. 

“We believe policymakers should build on this record of success. Over the past few years, Congress increased program funding, expanded cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables and made it easier for families to sign up for and receive benefits. The changes worked as intended to help WIC keep pace with growing demand.  

 “Bread supports USDA’s proposed updates that will enhance access to healthier options – like fruits, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains – by boosting benefit levels and providing greater choice among more nutritious products for families. We urge the USDA to move swiftly to finalize this rule and ensure that WIC-eligible families have access to these vital updated food packages.” – Heather Taylor, Managing Director, of Bread for the World

“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.” – Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

“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.” – Carmen M. Feliciano, J.D., Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, UnidosUS

“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." – Amelie Ramirez, Ph.D., Director of the Salud America! National Latino Health Equity Program at UT Health San Antonio

“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." – Cathy Burns, CEO, International Fresh Produce Association

"The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) 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. 

“The final changes add 6 ounces of canned fish to food packages for children (1 through 4 years) including Alaska salmon, to provide essential nutrients.  The final changes also add 10 ounces of canned fish to food packages for pregnant and postpartum participants and 15 ounces for partially breastfeeding participants; and adjusts amounts for fully breastfeeding participants from 30 to 20 ounces. 

“Seafood is essential to the health of children and women. Including more seafood in the update and expanding its availability in WIC packages for children, pregnant and postpartum women in addition to breastfeeding mothers will be great for their health! It also is a sound investment that will support The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommendation of two 8-oz servings of healthy seafood a week starting at 6 months. Almost all people have seafood intakes below recommended amounts, meaning they miss out on seafood’s healthy fats and nutrient-dense, lean protein. Seafood, in particular wild seafood from Alaska's sustainable fisheries adds quality, variety and value to the WIC food packages and is responsive to WIC participants’ requests," said Bruce Schactler, Director, Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute Global food Aid Program.

“FMI – The Food Industry Association applauds USDA’s commitment to permanently increasing the monthly cash-value voucher/benefit (CVV/B) amounts for fruit and vegetable purchases in the WIC program to reflect 50% 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.” – Peter Matz, Director, Food & Health Policy, FMI - The Food Industry 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.” – Josh Gackle, President, American Soybean 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.” – Rasma I. Zvaners, Vice President, Government Relations, American Bakers Association

“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.” – Jennifer McGuire, MS, RDN, Dietitian, National Fisheries Institute

“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.” – Tim D. McGreevy, CEO, USA Pulses (American Pulse Association, USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council, U.S. Pea and Lentil Trade Association