The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, will pay for fruits, vegetables and whole grain products beginning in October 2009, the agency has announced.
The program currently pays participants — pregnant and nursing women, and women with children 5 years old or younger who meet federal and state income guidelines — about $40 per month in coupons that can be used for foods including milk, juice, beans, cereal and cheese.
The changes were made on the advice of the national Institute of Medicine, which said the USDA needed to bring the three-decades-old program more in line with modern nutritional advice and the government's own dietary guidelines. In order to pay for these changes without raising the federal cost of the program, the amount of money that participants are allowed to spend on juice will be cut by half, and their budget for milk will be cut by about one-third.
The opportunity to purchase fresh produce with WIC coupons is separate from the program's Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, which has provided WIC participants with coupons that can be exchanged for produce and other foods at authorized farmers' markets since 1992.
In fiscal 2007, the WIC program served more than 2 million women, 2.2 million infants and 4 million children.