WATSONVILLE—The United States Department of Agriculture is asking for community input as it updates its Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for the first time since 2014.
The shift includes offering more nutritious food geared to meet a larger variety of cultures.
Anyone can make suggestions through Feb. 21. The agency will review the suggestions and implement the changes later this year.
The changes, announced in November, come from recommendations from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 edition.
Also included in the changes is lowering children’s sugar intake and shifting from juice to whole fruit.
In addition, the proposed package offers a wider array of food that reflect different cultures, such as quinoa, teff, wild rice, millet, cornmeal and whole wheat naan flour, all of which make up important aspects of various cultural diets.
The proposed changes also include non-dairy substitution options for milk such as soy-based cheese, and requiring lactose-free milk to be offered.
Santa Cruz County’s WIC program is overseen by Community Bridges.
“I am super excited about the proposed changes to the WIC Food Package,” said Santa Cruz County WIC Director Dana Wagner. “There is more variety and healthier food options for families. These changes would allow low-income families to purchase high quality foods that might not normally be available to them. It is a huge win.”
According to the USDA, WIC food packages are designed to supplement the food participants already eat and fill in “key nutritional gaps to support healthy growth and development.”
The changes will not only give WIC state agencies the ability to allow for personal and cultural food preferences and individual dietary needs, it will also allow them to make the program more appealing for both current and potential participants, the USDA said.
“For the more than 6 million moms, babies and young children who participate in WIC—and the millions more eligible to participate—these proposed revisions have the potential to make positive, life-long impacts on health and well-being,” said Stacy Dean, deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services.To make comments about the proposed changes to WIC benefits through Feb. 21, visit bit.ly/3lzR7AT.