USDA Updates WIC Food Packages to Include More Seafood

Image: U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Final changes to the new food packages for women, infants and children (WIC) approved by the Department of Agriculture include six ounces of canned fish to food packages for children ages 1-4 and allow canned light tuna, chub mackerel, salmon, sardines and Atlantic mackerel for children.

The final changes announced April 9 also include the addition of 10 ounces of canned fish to food packages for pregnant and postpartum participants, and 15 ounces for partially breastfeeding participants. Amounts for fully breastfeeding participants has been adjusted from 30 to 20 ounces.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has advocated for inclusion of Alaska salmon in WIC food packages since 2014, called the updated program great news for America’s mothers and children. Alaska’s wild salmon is among the healthiest, most nutritious food in the world, she said.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) also commended the Biden administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for adding more seafood to its array of nutritional programs.

Expanding seafood availability to WIC packages, ASMI officials said, will provide essential nutrition that women, infants and children can’t get elsewhere.

The new guidelines also support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, which recommend two 8-ounce servings of healthy seafood a week starting at six months.

According to ASMI, nearly all Americans have seafood intakes well below recommended amounts, meaning they miss out on seafood’s healthy fats and nutrient-dense, lean protein.

“ASMI will continue to work to extend science-based access to seafood for children starting at six months, the only group not included in this seafood update,” Bruce Schactler, director of ASMI’s Global Food Aid Program, said.

“We will continue to push for modernizing the WIC food packages with additional consumer-ready forms of seafood, like frozen portions in the next update,” he added. “We are in it for the long term.”

Federal law requires USDA to conduct a comprehensive scientific review of the WIC food packages at least every 10 years and update them as needed to reflect nutrition science, public health concerns and cultural eating patterns.