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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


March/April 1997
Volume XVI, Number 2

Nutrition Hotline

Soy to be Added to WIC?

By Suzanne Havala, M.S. R.D.

Suzanne Havala, M.S., R.D. QUESTION:

Is there any work being done to include soy foods in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)? If so, how can I support that work? If not, where do I start?

I worked with WIC over the summer and found it very discouraging. I felt like my main job there was to convince women to drink more cow's milk. Many complained of milk intolerance or allergies, or were from a cultural background that did not use dairy products (i.e., Asian) and there were no alternatives for them. With all the new information about the importance of soy products, the time appears to be ripe for change in this area. What do you think?

N.T., Alpine, Virginia


I'm pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Consumer Services (FCS), which administers the WIC Program at the Federal level, has recognized the need to make adjustments in the WIC food packages to better accommodate ethnic food preferences.

From the inception of the WIC program in 1974 until 1991, the food package had undergone only minor changes, including a slight reduction in the amount of milk, a slight increase in the amount of cereal, and the addition of peanut butter and dried beans and peas. Within the past five years, however, an enhanced breastfeeding package was developed for nursing mothers whose infants did not receive formula from WIC. This package added an extra pound of cheese, extra juice, tuna, and carrots and provided both a pound of dried beans or peas and 18 ounces of peanut butter in addition to the WIC foods offered to a pregnant woman.

If current plans to revise the WIC food packages proceed as planned, a proposed rule would address the addition of soy-based milks and possibly other soy foods, a move that will benefit women who are lactose-intolerant or for whom soy foods are traditional diet components. An FCS staff person indicated to me that the Department wishes to address the needs of these women as well as the needs of vegetarians. I was told that "efforts under way are on the fast track," which should be encouraging news for many women.

Any changes to the WIC food packages would follow the Department's formal rule-making process. The changes would be addressed in a proposed rule, with a public comment period_most likely 90 days_to enable individuals and organizations to send written comments about the proposed rule to the USDA. The Department would then review and analyze the comments before proceeding with a final rule. I was informed that an additional effort to further improve the WIC food packages is also anticipated. The regulations were last revised in 1980 and were reviewed again in 1992 by an independent group of experts.

We'll keep readers apprised of proposed changes to the WIC program as they develop. If you would like additional information or would like to contact the Department yourself, call or write:

Stanley Garnett
Director, Supplemental Food Programs Division
Food and Consumer Services
U.S. Department of Agriculture
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 540
Alexandria, VA 22302
(703) 305-2011

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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