FarmPolicy

September 26, 2017

WIC Changes Impact Food Choices, Without Adding to Government Costs

Categories: Farm Bill /Food Aid /Obesity

Stephanie Strom reported yesterday at The New York Times Online that, “Can people make healthier food choices without spending more money?

In a review of federal food subsidy programs, researchers found that nudging shoppers toward more healthful foods pushed cheap junk food out of the family shopping basket without adding to the government’s costs.

“The data come from a study of purchases by users of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, before and after changes were imposed to encourage healthy eating.”

Ms. Strom noted that, “In 2009, the Department of Agriculture, which administers the WIC program, added vouchers aimed at increasing consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grains while reducing saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar. To avoid raising overall costs, the program limited other items. The program restricted the amount of reduced-fat milk, cheese and juice recipients could buy, and eliminated whole milk from the program. If WIC users wanted to purchase foods not on the list, they had to use their own money, rather than the WIC vouchers or cards.

“While many nutritionists today would not agree with all the changes, particularly the focus on lowering fat, the net effect was an overall improvement in the quality of foods and beverages the shopper purchased.”

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