USDA Proposes Better Access to Seafood in WIC Program

Image: National WIC Association.

Federal officials in late November proposed changes for participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), including improved access to canned fish, to reflect the latest dietary guidelines.

These science-based revisions, recommended by the National Academies of Science, Engineers and Medicine (NASEM) and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for 2020-2025, prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to post the proposed changes in the Federal Register. 

Those guidelines recommend two eight-ounce servings of healthy seafood a week, starting at six months of age.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the proposed changes would strengthen WIC by ensuring that it provides foods that reflect the latest nutrition science to support healthy eating and bright futures.

Taken collectively, the changes would increase the current level of assistance while providing WIC state agencies with more flexibility to tailor packages to accommodate personal and cultural food preferences and special dietary needs. They also would increase variety and choice for WIC participants, thus making the program more appealing for current and potential participants.

The proposed revisions support fruit and vegetable consumption by increasing the amount provided and the varieties available for purchase.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) proposes making that increase permanent, providing participants with up to four times the amount they would otherwise receive. Food and Nutrition also proposes revisions that give participants a greater variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from and adjust the quantity of juice to reflect nutrition guidance.

The announced proposed changes drew kudos from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), whose efforts on behalf of the seafood industry include marketing canned salmon for domestic and overseas programs for people in need of food.

ASMI’s Global Food Air Program also serves to move product held over after fishing seasons for lack of buyers.

Bruce Schactler, director of the program, said the addition of more seafood into WIC packages for children, pregnant and postpartum women would be great for their health, and a sound investment that will support domestic seafood and retail industries, including many small businesses.

Congress previously implemented a significant, but temporary boost to the benefit provided to WIC participants for purchasing fruits and vegetables. 

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