National WIC Association: "This actionable National Strategy amplifies WIC's early nutrition intervention as a major force in closing disparities and setting the stage for a healthier next generation."
WASHINGTON, DC - In advance of tomorrow's Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, the White House released a National Strategy to eradicate hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so fewer Americans experience chronic diet-related conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. To achieve these goals, the National Strategy includes several recommendations to modernize and enhance the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), was established in 1974 in response to recommendations from the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health convened by President Nixon in 1969.
Brian Dittmeier, Senior Director of Public Policy for the National WIC Association (NWA), issued the following statement in response:
"The upcoming White House Conference focuses on the most fundamental of kitchen table issues: what we feed our children and how it affects their long-term health. In this nation of abundance, no family should be priced out of the healthy foods that children need to grow and thrive. With one-in-five children in the United States affected by obesity, the Biden-Harris administration wisely sets forth a whole-of-government and multi-sector approach that will dismantle barriers to food access, curb chronic-diet related conditions and reduce overall healthcare costs. This actionable National Strategy amplifies WIC's early nutrition intervention as a major force in closing disparities and setting the stage for a healthier next generation.
"WIC is one of the most successful outcomes of the 1969 conference, with subsequent improvements to WIC services yielding an even greater public health impact. The decades-long push to promote alignment of the WIC food packages with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans resulted in a 9 percent reduction in toddler obesity rates, and a recent boost in WIC's benefit led to increased consumption of fruits and vegetables by young children. Program adaptations implemented early in the pandemic reversed long standing trends and contributed to an 11 percent increase in child participation in WIC services. The National Strategy underscores the importance of these improved health outcomes and echoes bipartisan enthusiasm in Congress by calling for a permanent increase in WIC issuance of healthy foods, expanded WIC eligibility and streamlined access to WIC services through telehealth and online shopping.
"The White House Conference will bring together diverse stakeholders and demonstrate the untapped potential of improved collaboration across sectors, especially between federal nutrition programs and healthcare providers. WIC's workforce of nutrition, dietetics and lactation support professionals are equipped to deliver systems change that can expand access to nutrition services and make full use of their scope of practice. This cross-sector partnership is especially critical for infant nutrition, as WIC providers have worked to support adoption of Baby-Friendly Hospital policies, promote greater alignment with the World Health Organization’s International Code, and coordinate with medical providers to address recent infant formula shortages. As the healthcare system increasingly prioritizes prevention and early interventions, WIC's nutrition services and unparalleled reach in breastfeeding support can build beyond the steps taken in this National Strategy to more closely coordinate with Medicaid and private health plans and become the go-to community resource for nutrition and breastfeeding support.
"The upcoming Conference would not have been possible without the committed leadership of Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN).In the weeks, months and years ahead, the WIC community is committed to working with policymakers and private-sector partners to make meaningful progress in eradicating hunger and reducing chronic diet-related conditions."
The National Strategy highlights several commitments related to WIC, including:
The Biden-Harris administration will support bipartisan efforts in Congress to expand WIC eligibility
USDA will update the WIC food packages to better align with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, including an ongoing boost in WIC's fruit and vegetable benefit
USDA will expand online shopping access for WIC participants and partner with the Department of Defense (DOD) to incorporate commissaries into online shopping models
USDA will continue to test initiatives to facilitate virtual breastfeeding support and one-on-one counseling in WIC
USDA will invest in WIC modernization, with funding made possible through the American Rescue Plan Act, to invest in community-based outreach, streamline the participant experience, improve the in-store experience, expand access to farmers markets and increase diversity and cultural competency in the WIC workforce
USDA and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) will partner to enhance cross-enrollment between WIC and other federal programs, such as Medicaid and SNAP
DOD will provide clear and consistent labeling of WIC products in commissaries, consistent with State agency guidance
The Biden-Harris administration will continue to support extending workplace protections to breastfeeding mothers
The Biden-Harris administration will support expanded nutrition counseling coverage through Medicaid and survey insurers to assess the scale of nutrition counseling coverage in private health plans
USDA and HHS will launch initiatives to train and diversify the nutrition professional workforce, including a national workforce strategy for WIC
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will put forth guidance supporting the display of nutrition information on e-commerce platforms, as a first step to promote healthier online food environments
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will pursue targeted law enforcement actions to prevent the deceptive advertising of foods, including targeted campaigns at youth
The National WIC Association (NWA) is the non-profit membership organization for State and local providers of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). NWA is the go-to voice of and for WIC staff at more than 12,000 WIC locations across the country who work to support more than 6.2 million mothers and young children. For over three decades, NWA has worked to build broad, bipartisan consensus for WIC’s programmatic goals and public health mission. NWA provides member-driven advocacy; education, guidance, and support to WIC staff; and drive innovation to strengthen WIC as we work toward a nation of healthier women, children, and their families. Learn more at www.nwica.org.