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New WIC Rules Increase Vouchers For Fruits And Veggies, Adds New Eligible Food Items

In a move to promote healthier eating habits, the federal government has announced changes to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides food assistance to low-income mothers, babies, and young children. The updated rules, announced by the Food and Nutrition Service on Tuesday, will take effect within two years, with some exceptions.

The new rules make permanent a increase in monthly cash vouchers for fruits and vegetables, first introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, shoppers will be able to purchase canned fish, fresh herbs, and lactose-free milk, among other changes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet, stating that the changes are designed to fill nutrition gaps in the diets of program participants.

The WIC program served an average of 6.6 million low-income Americans per month in 2023, at a cost of over $7 billion. Despite this, only about half of those eligible are currently enrolled in the program.

Under the new rules, fruit and vegetable vouchers will provide $26 per month for children ages 1-4, $47 per month for pregnant and postpartum women, and $52 for breastfeeding women. The changes also expand access to whole grains and culturally diverse foods.

However, the plan did not include a change requested by top allergists to add peanut products to foods allowed for babies ages 6-11 months to help prevent peanut allergies. Research has shown that early introduction to peanut foods can reduce the risk of allergy development in high-risk children.

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