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WIC Households Buying Fewer Full-Fat Dairy Products, Study Finds


Purchases of whole milk and cheese have decreased among families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), according to a new study conducted by our friends at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

The findings come on the heels of another Rudd-researched study released in September that found healthy consumption of whole grains among WIC recipients is increasing, further suggesting that efforts to encourage healthier nutrition habits through the program are paying off.

In the dairy study, researchers looked at milk and cheese purchases made at a New England supermarket by WIC households over a two-year period, both before and after changes were made to the program to offer foods that better reflect dietary recommendations for Americans. On the dairy front, whole milk allocations for WIC consumers are only authorized for children under age 2, while women and other children are allowed to use WIC for milk with no more than 2% milk fat. The changes are designed to reduce consumption of saturated fat.

Significant changes to dairy consumption were observed. For example, before the WIC revisions whole milk purchases accounted for 57 percent of total milk purchases and 56 percent of WIC milk purchases. After the changes, whole milk purchases amounted to just 33 percent for total purchases and 25 percent for WIC purchases.

Cheese allowances also were restricted under the WIC changes, and researchers found consumption of cheese by WIC recipients declined 77 percent after the revisions were put into place.

“Reducing saturated fat consumption was one of the goals for revising the WIC food packages,” says Tatiana Andreyeva, lead author and director of economic initiatives at the Rudd Center. “This study shows that the revisions were successful and necessary, given excessive consumption of saturated fat and calories in vulnerable populations.”

Andreyeva told the Inside Track in September that the WIC revisions are a win-win, as recipients are purchasing healthier products and the government didn’t spend any additional money. “Here are some changes that we can make that won’t cost us a lot of money, but in the long term will actually save taxpayers money,” she noted.

Click here to read the full study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.