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Fruit & Vegetable Vouchers in the WIC Food Program

Overview

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, better known as the WIC Program, currently provides vouchers for WIC moms and their children to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Starting in 1999, United Fresh championed the addition of produce in WIC at high level meetings with USDA and the Clinton White House, and then spearheaded provisions in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees the following year. More recently, United redoubled its efforts after the very positive recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in 2005, which called for the addition of fruits and vegetables to WIC.

In 2009, USDA began implementation of these new vouchers with WIC moms set to receive an $8 monthly voucher, and kids to receive a $6 monthly voucher to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. That same year, Congress passed the FY 2010 Agricultural Appropriations Bill which increased the value of the monthly produce voucher for WIC Moms from $8/month to its current value of $10/month. However, the value of the produce voucher for children remained at $6. President Obama’s FY2010 budget proposed increasing the children’s fruit and vegetable voucher to $8/month, as recommended in the Institute of Medicine (IOM), but Congress did not head the Administration’s recommendation.

As it stands currently, WIC provides vouchers for $10 per month to mothers and $6 per month to children for fresh fruits and vegetables. If Congress provides funding at the level recommended by the IOM ($10/month for moms and $8/month for children), the total value of this policy change will be approximately $167 million/year in additional produce sales based on the current WIC caseload.

This historic revision of the WIC food packages represents an estimated $700 million in additional retail produce sales, and provides a means to improve the eating habits and health of the more than 9.4 million WIC participants. United Fresh is committed to successful implementation of the fruit and vegetable vouchers to increase the availability, accessibility and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In 2011, through agriculture appropriation legislation, United Fresh will work to boost the cash-value voucher of the WIC fruit/vegetable vouchers, provided to 4.7 million WIC children, to the full value as recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

Key Links:

Background:

United Fresh's Leadership Role - United Fresh Produce Association worked for more than a decade to advocate the addition of fruits and vegetables to WIC. Dating back to 1999, United Fresh championed the addition of produce in WIC at high level meetings with USDA and the Clinton White House, and then spearheaded provisions in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees the following year. More recently, we redoubled our efforts after the very positive recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine in 2005, which called for the addition of fruits and vegetables to WIC. In all, to accomplish this nutrition policy victory, United Fresh collaborated with the National WIC Association, State WIC Agencies and national public health and nutrition organizations

What is WIC? - WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, is a federally funded nutrition program for low-income and nutritionally-at-risk- pregnant and breast feeding women, their infants, and young children (ages 1-5 years). WIC is often referred to as the premier public health nutrition program in the United States. Currently, more than 9 million people participate in WIC, including more than 54% of all infants born each year and 25% of all young children.

The WIC program provides vouchers for specific foods to improve pregnancy outcome, reduce infant mortality, and improve child health. WIC food packages have always included vouchers for milk, eggs, 100% juice, cheese, cereal, and infant formula. Now, vouchers for fruits and vegetables will also be included.

New WIC Food Packages set to include Fruits and Vegetables - In December of 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an interim final regulation revising the WIC Food Packages with the goal of aligning WIC Food Packages with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, current infant feeding guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and to provide a wider variety of healthier foods. USDA's rule requested monthly fruit and vegetable vouchers in the following amounts: Moms - $8/month, Children (1-5 years of age) - $6/month, and Fully Breastfeeding Mothers - $10/month.

The WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers can be used to purchase any combination of fresh or processed fruits and vegetables, with the following specifications:

  • Any variety of fresh whole or cut fruit without added sugar
  • Any variety of fresh whole or cut vegetable, except white potatoes, without added sugars, fats or oils
  • White potatoes (fresh or processed) are excluded from authorization in WIC food packages. Sweet potatoes and orange yams are allowed
  • Any variety of canned or frozen fruit without added sugars, fats, oils or salt
  • Any variety of canned or frozen vegetables, except white potatoes, without added sugars, fats or oils; may be regular or lower in sodium
  • Any variety of dried fruits or dried vegetable without added sugars, fats, oils, or salt

Implementation and the Role of State WIC Agencies - State WIC Agencies administer the WIC program. Pursuant to the interim final regulation, every state was required to implement the new WIC Food Package by October 1, 2009. With each State WIC Agency having the flexibility to determine their implementation date, some states provided WIC Mom's with the new fruit and vegetable vouchers before other states had their programs ready to go. All states, however, were required to launch the new fruit and vegetable WIC vouchers by October 1, 2009.

Collaboration between State WIC Agencies and supermarket retailers is critical to successful implementation of the new WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers.

Benefits and Opportunities for Retailers - The nexus between WIC families and better health is their supermarket's produce department. To maximize opportunities for retailers, United Fresh Produce Association has prepared a guidance document titled: "A Huge Win for Produce - Fruits and Vegetables in WIC! Opportunities for Retailers".

Benefits to Produce Industry - It is anticipated that fresh fruits and vegetables will receive the most benefit from the new WIC vouchers. WIC families are demanding access to more fresh fruits and vegetable so they can eat healthier diets. Based on actual purchase data from the two California demonstration projects, bananas, apples, tomatoes, carrots, oranges, lettuce, broccoli, onions, grapes, avocados and pears will be the most frequently purchased fresh fruits and vegetables. In total, more than $600 million in new produce purchases are anticipated.

California and New York WIC Fruit & Vegetable Demonstration Project Results
Three pilot studies conducted in California and New York State, in which cash-value vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables were provided to WIC participants, had very positive results. These studies demonstrated that WIC participants increased their consumption of a wide variety of nutrient-dense fresh fruits and vegetables and added variety to their diets. The fruit and vegetable vouchers were also shown to be highly acceptable to WIC participants of various ethnic/cultural backgrounds and worked well in supermarkets and small independent markets.

For more information on United's work on WIC and other nutrition initiatives, contact United Vice President of Nutrition and Health, Lorelei DiSogra Ed.D., R.D. at 202-303-3400 or at ldisogra@unitedfresh.org.



United Fresh Produce Association
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202 303 3400
Fax: 202 303 3433
united@unitedfresh.org