Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik today led a bipartisan letter with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-Oregon) requesting the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary to provide container size flexibility in the WIC program to improve families’ food choices and access to certain foods, including dairy items such as yogurt.
Under current guidelines for the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), restrictions on sizes for eligible foods can prevent participants from accessing popular or nutritious options. This has become increasingly more difficult as recent supply chain issues have created less certainty for consumers at the grocery store, which the lawmakers pointed out in the letter.
“I am working to expand access to healthy and nutritious choices for our families,” said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. “Our proposed rule change would also be good news for our North Country dairy farmers, who work hard to provide nutritious milk, yogurt, and cheese for families across the nation. I want to thank Congresswoman Bonamici for joining me to address this.”
“WIC is a lifeline for many families, providing infants and children with the nutritious meals they need to grow and thrive,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “The current size restrictions some states choose for products like yogurt create an unnecessary barrier to healthy foods. I’m pleased to join Congresswoman Stefanik in urging the USDA to follow the recommendations of the National Academies, encourage states to provide flexibility for families, and increase access to more nutritious foods.”
This letter comes in advance of the USDA issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for revisions to the supplemental food package for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC.
“Access to quality food, regardless of container size, is important for having a nutritious diet and supporting New York farmers who produce a wide variety of healthy options, like yogurt. We appreciate Congresswoman Stefanik efforts on this issue and continuing to work on behalf of New York’s dairy farmers to ensure their products are increasingly available to people in need,” said David Fisher, New York Farm Bureau President.
“Building a modern WIC shopping experience for the program’s 6.2 million participants requires a broader range of healthy food options available on the shelf. WIC shoppers, like any other consumer, should not be limited to specific containers or package sizes when nutritionally comparable alternatives are stocked and within reach,” said Brian Dittmeier, senior director of public policy for the National WIC Association. “We thank Congresswomen Stefanik and Bonamici for elevating the practical challenges faced by WIC families and lifting up a straightforward solution to improve the WIC retail experience and advance nutrition security for America’s next generation. Five years ago, the National Academies of Sciences urged a series of science-based reforms that would resolve package size challenges, especially for yogurt and whole-wheat breads, and expand access to nutritious foods for WIC shoppers. It is time for USDA to deliver and revise the WIC food packages.”
“IDFA is grateful to Reps. Stefanik and Bonamici for seeking to increase consumption of WIC-approved dairy products by urging USDA to include the yogurt sizes and varieties that both meet the needs of WIC families and are widely available in stores. Unfortunately, 90% of Americans do not meet the levels of dairy consumption recommended by the Dietary Guidelines, and that deficiency is especially problematic for mothers, infants and toddlers who rely on the essential nutrients that dairy products provide for cognitive development, heart health, bone health and numerous other health goals. In 2015, the WIC food package added yogurt as a dairy option but that benefit often goes unused due to many states not allowing more commonly sold single-serve containers, which have more varieties and more convenient to dispense to children. We urge USDA to take up these and other commonsense reforms in their upcoming WIC food package update,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President and CEO, International Dairy Foods Association.
Read the full letter here.