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WIC's fruit and vegetable boost

The renewed focus on healthful eating has come just at the time when many Americans have less money to spend on good food. But women participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program will soon get a 25 percent boost in the value of their monthly fruit and vegetable vouchers.

Over the next five years, the additional benefits will total $250 million.

WIC fruit and vegetable vouchers were first made available last year in answer to health and nutrition recommendations from the National Academies' Institute of Medicine. The vouchers can be applied to purchases of most fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits and vegetables, except white potatoes. Previously, the program provided vouchers for milk, eggs, cereal, juice, cheese, peanut butter and dried beans or peas.

Women enrolled in the program will now receive $10 in fruit and vegetable vouchers per month. Before the increase, most of the women received $8, although those who were breastfeeding received $10 vouchers. (The children's amount of $6 per month for fruits and vegetables has not changed.)

Congress allocated new funds in the recent Agriculture Appropriations bill passed in October. Department of Agriculture officials fast-tracked the release of new regulations to guide the implementation of the new money by the states. The money is available immediately; states have until April 30 to begin distributing funds.

"The WIC folks really wanted this change," said Geraldine Henchy, a policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger organization in Washington. "This is record time for a regulation."

California, Texas, Florida, New York and Georgia are expected to dole out the largest number of checks, Henchy estimates. The District will receive $107,000, Maryland will receive $778,000 and Virginia will get $916,000.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  January 7, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Food Politics  | Tags: Jane Black, USDA, WIC  
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The WIC food voucher rules are an EXCELLENT guide to low-cost, healthy food (well, except for the politically driven inclusion of cheese on the list).

Frankly, the single best thing that the government could do for public health is to ban stores from selling *any* food except for those on the WIC approved list. To anyone.

Posted by: web_user | January 8, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

Good idea "web-user"! Buying hamburger and chicken for the cookout from criminal enterprises instead of the grocery store would add a certain excitement to life, wouldn't it?

This ain't North Korea. Not yet, anyway.

Posted by: corco02az | January 8, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I dunno. Have you watched "Food, Inc."? What's happening in our industrial-scale animal farm-and-slaughter facilities isn't North-Korea bad, but it's pretty horrific.

You know something's out of whack when a pound of ground beef is cheaper than a pound of bread.

Ending the the inhumane, government-subsidized, hugely carbon-intensive factory-style meat production wouldn't be a bad idea; even if it created a gang-controlled "meat black market", it would still probably be a net gain for society in terms of health and environmental impact.

Posted by: web_user | January 8, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

As a recipient of WIC, I feel its very important that all the grocery stores that honor WIC need to abide by what is written in the brochure listing items that can be purchased, as some stores only allow certain items, when the brochure specifically states description of the item in the brochure. I don't mind sticking to store brands, but when I am told I can only get apple juice when the brochure shows, apple, orange, or grapefruit, or 64 oz container, the store needs to allow this. Sometimes its really hard to find the little sticker that says WIC on the shelves. We have allergies to some items and need to be allowed the choice.

Posted by: beatriceadporter-gruel | January 8, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

It's about time they paid for fruits and vegetables. When I received WIC 16 years ago, the vouchers covered milk (required to be purchased in gallons), cheese (nasty store-brand American process cheese, not natural cheese), canned orange juice (an insult to oranges), Cheerios, Rice Chex (at least the cereals were good), peanut butter, eggs, and infant formula (I was nursing, but their attitude was that women in the program or on Medicaid weren't capable of nursing). I concluded that the whole WIC program was a subsidy for Big Ag rather than a benefit to mothers and children, and ended up not using the vouchers. I suggested back then that I'd rather have vouchers for salad fixings instead of formula, and my suggestion fell on deaf ears. Perhaps if WIC stopped subsidizing formula, more mothers would breast-feed.

Posted by: tenorlove | January 8, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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