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WIC Participants Say USDA Cuts to Milk and Dairy Benefits Will Make Their Lives Harder

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2024—In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to release a final rule revising the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food package. With it, the food and nutrition benefits of nearly 6 million mothers and children under the age of 5 are at risk of being cut. Now, new polling of 815 WIC participants shows growing concern among participants that USDA’s proposed cuts to milk and dairy benefits will make their lives more difficult. Nearly half expressed uncertainty about re-enrolling in the program if USDA cuts their milk and dairy benefits.

One mother, Brittany Oxley, a WIC participant from Charleston, W.Va., who also works as a medical assistant helping mothers and children in the WIC program, said, “I work with WIC moms and children every single day, and to do something like this makes no sense.”

The new Morning Consult poll, commissioned by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), showed a staggering four-in-five WIC participants (79%) are concerned with the USDA proposal, up from three-in-four participants (76%) polled in December 2022. One-third (35%) of respondents said they will need to use non-WIC funds to cover purchases of milk and dairy, and an additional one-third (33%) said the reduction will make their shopping for milk and dairy products harder, according to the poll. Roughly one-third (34%) were unsure if they would re-enroll in the program following the proposed cuts.

The WIC program currently provides support for 6 million low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care. The new poll showed that dairy foods, purchased by 83% of respondents, are the most popular foods provided in the WIC food package. This is also backed up by USDA’s own WIC redemption data published in 2022 as part of the WIC Food Cost-Containment Practices Study. That study showed that while all products offered in WIC are under redeemed, cheese, cow’s milk and yogurt ranked as some of the most redeemed items by WIC households (Table 9.2, page 89). In December 2022, USDA proposed changes to the food provided to these beneficiaries. IDFA estimates that the USDA’s proposal for the updated WIC food package would reduce the amount of dairy up to six quarts per month for pregnant participants and others, including:

“Reducing WIC benefits for milk and dairy will make life harder for millions of women, new mothers, infants, and children at a challenging time of high food costs and rising food insecurity,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “Moreover, USDA’s own proposal flies in the face of the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which says 90% of Americans are not consuming enough dairy to meet daily requirements. IDFA encourages USDA to heed its own dietary guidance and find ways to improve program participation by encouraging the purchase of nutritious dairy products.”

The national tracking poll was conducted by Morning Consult between March 28-30, 2024, among a sample of 815 WIC household members – defined as adults who participate in the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and/or have an immediate family member who does so. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of WIC household members based on age, gender, race, educational attainment, region, gender by age, and race by educational attainment. Results from the full survey have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

To read the results of the poll, visit here.

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