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WIC dairy reductions stir concern among milk producers


The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) have openly criticized the latest amendments to the WIC program's dietary guidelines, which have notably reduced dairy allocations. This adjustment has raised concerns regarding the nutritional welfare of the program's beneficiaries, including pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children, who rely on WIC for access to critical nutrients.

Dairy products, being a primary source of several key nutrients identified as lacking in American diets, play a crucial role in the dietary regimen recommended by the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The decision to scale back on dairy provisions in WIC food packages comes at a time when the cost of food is soaring, making it even more crucial to ensure access to a variety of nutritious and affordable food options.

Despite the setback, there is a silver lining as the final rule introduces certain accommodations, such as the inclusion of lactose-free milk options and more diverse packaging sizes for dairy products. These adjustments aim to broaden the accessibility of dairy for all WIC participants, addressing specific dietary restrictions and preferences.

The IDFA has highlighted the proactive steps it has taken to enhance dairy accessibility within the WIC program, including efforts to allow participants to exchange a portion of their milk benefits for yogurt. This initiative represents a strategic move to ensure nutrient-dense options remain within reach for those reliant on WIC, despite the overarching cuts to dairy benefits.

The dairy industry continues to call for a collaborative effort with the USDA to ensure the WIC program fully leverages the rule's provisions to support yogurt and cheese options, thereby mitigating the impact of reduced milk benefits. As the dialogue progresses, it remains to be seen how these concerns will be addressed to uphold the nutritional integrity of the WIC program.

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