Dairy Industry Speaks Out Against Planned Cuts to WIC Milk Benefits | Local news

Dairy groups oppose a federal plan to cut milk benefits in a major nutrition program.

The USDA says it is trying to stay true to the mission of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides only a portion of recipients’ food needs.

As part of a proposed renewal in November, the agency plans to reduce the amount of milk covered by WIC from 71% to 96% of the recommended daily allowance for dairy products. The program currently provides 85% to 128% of this amount.

The reduction will help people eat a balanced diet that meets but does not exceed recommended levels of dairy products and does not crowd out other food groups, the USDA said.

Michael Dykes, president of the International Dairy Food Association, said most Americans do not consume the recommended amount of milk and the USDA should encourage recipients to purchase milk.

“USDA’s proposed cuts to WIC dairy benefits put low-income mothers and children in grave jeopardy at a time when food costs are a major challenge for families,” Dykes said.

On average, 1-year-olds across the country consume more than the recommended amount of milk, and 2- to 4-year-olds get close to the suggested amount. Milk consumption decreases as children get older, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Under the proposed WIC rules, mothers would receive 4 gallons per month, down to 2 gallons per month. Children would receive 3 to 3.5 gallons, half a gallon to 1 gallon less than they would now.

In a video for the dairy food organization, WIC beneficiary Brittany Oxley said she couldn’t understand why the USDA would consider reducing milk benefits.

“Most of the moms I work with are really just in the milk program. They rely on this every month,” said Oxley, who works as a physician assistant at the WIC office in Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Nearly 80% of WIC participants buy dairy products with their benefits, and 20% said they would not re-enroll if dairy benefits are reduced, according to a December survey of 534 program recipients by Morning Consult for the dairy group.

WIC supports mothers from pregnancy to their child’s first birthday and children up to age 4. Participants must meet income requirements and be determined to have a nutritional risk, such as a poor diet.

The program provides food allotments intended to supplement certain nutrients known to be lacking in the target population.

Milk benefits were cut the last time the portions were updated, a seven-year process that ended in 2014.

In addition to cutting milk benefits, the new proposal would increase the allotment for fruits and vegetables, strengthen access to lactose-free milk and end coverage of flavored milk, which contains added sugars and was only authorized by three states.

The USDA would also allow soy-based yogurt with vitamin D, adding an option for participants who do not consume milk-based yogurt due to lactose intolerance or a vegan diet.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research program said the planned milk reductions for 1-year-olds seemed a bit exaggerated, but the reduced portions for 2- to 4-year-olds would still provide a large percentage of the nutrition recommendations. children. milk intake

More studies are needed to understand the extent to which young families rely on WIC for nutritious foods, the research program said. One article found that WIC-eligible foods provided more than 40% of the diet of enrolled 1- and 2-year-olds.

Legislators from dairy districts and House and Senate agriculture committees have written to the USDA opposing the milk reductions.

The agency will proceed with a final rule after reviewing 15,000 public comments, which it finished accepting last month.