SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) — The United States Department of Agriculture last updated the WIC guidelines in 2014. The changes were proposed to the USDA in November 2022 and recently approved.

“It’s especially important that we are taking a look at the updates to the dietary guidelines, so we have had updates to the dietary guidelines, so we just want to make sure we are meeting the Nutritional needs of our members,” says Tara Williams the WIC Coordinator for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, “They are also allowing for more flexibility, so more choices for those with food sensitives or cultural preferences.”

States and WIC programs have two years to comply with the new changes, but they could make those changes sooner.

“Some of the changes have already occurred; back in 2021, there was a temporary increase for fruits and vegetables benefit, the cash value that they get. So that actually is going to stay the same,” says Williams.

The USDA says the changes encourage more fruit and vegetables and promote breastfeeding to help establish a long-term breastfeeding goal for mothers.

“I think finally we are getting the ball rolling on not just the total amount of calories to help people, but it is the quality of those calories. We know fruits, vegetables, and whole grains those are the things we know that will not only bring health to our bodies but health to our minds and our emotions, and we need all those things healthy if we want to move people from just surviving to living their best life,” says Nathan Mortsenson the Program Manager of the Crosslines Food Pantry.

Under the new rule, WIC vouchers will provide $26 per month for fruits and vegetables for children ages 1-4, an increase to $47 for pregnant and postpartum women and $52 per month for breastfeeding women.

“I honestly think the biggest thing is going to be teaching families how to use those vegetables and how to incorporate more than your favorite one or two things into a dish. And that is another thing we love about this: it gives families an excuse to explore new fruits and vegetables, try new things, cook with your families, and try new recipes with your kids. I think that is going to be one of the most fun and challenging parts of all this,” says Mortsenson.

In addition, the changes also reduce the amount provided for the juice to around half a gallon or less and change the amount of milk allowed to 4 to 6 gallons per month.

“The time that people are eligible for the WIC program is a really crucial time for their nutrition, so want to make sure they access to a variety of health foods to meet all their nutrition needs,” says Williams.

The goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle to those who need it the most. In 2022, WIC served about 6.3 million people per month at an estimated cost of $5.7 billion for the year. The USDA says that WIC helps 39 percent of all infants in the United States.

“When you think of the example of the single mom with three kids, all of sudden now that single mom has an additional $150 a month to spend on produce, to spend on all these healthy fruits and vegetables, it makes a huge difference for the kids,” says Mortsenson.

To learn more about the program changes, click here to visit the USDA website on the changes to the WIC Program. For information about signing up for WIC in Springfield and Greene County, you can visit the Health Department website by clicking here.

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