New NPI study shows WIC participant preferences align with national recommendations to increase fruits and vegetables in the WIC food package

Nov 2, 2020

In 2017, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released comprehensive recommendations to update the food packages provided by the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to align with the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The recommendations were to decrease the amount of some foods currently offered by WIC (100% fruit or vegetable juice, milk, and legumes), add foods either not offered or offered in very small amounts relative to the DGAs (fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and canned fish), increase the WIC package flexibility, and ensure the food package is culturally appropriate. The proposed changes are cost-neutral, and will save approximately $220 million program-wide from 2018 to 2022. Researchers from the University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) collaborated with the California Department of Public Health and Public Health Foundation Enterprises WIC program to conduct a survey of nearly 3,000 California WIC participants with children aged 1-4 years in 2019 to understand if the recommended changes to the child food package were aligned with their preferences. Results from this collaborative study were published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Survey results show that most families on WIC wanted an increase in the $9 cash value voucher (CVV) to purchase fruits and vegetables and a majority would be willing to receive more fruits and vegetables instead of juice. Most participants were interested in adding canned fish to their child's food package and were also satisfied with the amount of beans, peanut butter, and milk offered by WIC. The study was conducted by NPI-affiliated researcher Lauren Au of the University of California, Davis; NPI researchers Lorrene Ritchie, Marisa Tsai, and Hallie Randel-Schreiber; Catherine Martinez and Shannon Whaley of Public Health Foundation Enterprise WIC; and Patricia Gradziel and Susan Sabatier from the California Department of Public Health. The study was funded by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the California Department of Public Health WIC Division.