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Biden admin plans to reduce milk allowance for families in WIC program, substitute soy-based products

Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The Biden administration recently proposed a rule for the United States Department of Agriculture that could reduce the amount of milk available to families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. To supplement the reduction to the milk allowance, the administration proposed including more soy-based products.

According to the USDA, “more than 6 million moms, babies and young children” are currently participating in the WIC program.

In November 2022, the Department of Agriculture announced that it plans to “reduce the amount of milk provided in all child, pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding participant food packages” and add “soy-based” or other lactose-free beverages, yogurt, and cheese alternatives.

The USDA reported that the proposed updates to the WIC program are “science-based” revisions from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that “best meet [participants’] nutritional needs and foster healthy growth and development.”

“USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC, helping mothers, babies and young kids thrive,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in November. “These proposed changes will strengthen WIC – already an incredibly powerful program – by ensuring it provides foods that reflect the latest nutrition science to support healthy eating and bright futures.”

On Wednesday, 28 congressional representatives, including New York Republican Representative Elise Stefanik, pushed back on the proposal and argued that the plan would “exacerbate the crisis families are already facing with skyrocketing prices at the grocery store.”

In a bipartisan joint letter to the Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, the representatives explained that the proposed monthly milk allowance reduction was “substantial” and cause for “deep concerns.”

Currently, children 12 to 23 months old enrolled in the WIC program are allowed 16 quarts of milk per month. Under the new proposed rule, those children would be reduced to 12 quarts monthly.

Children ages 2 to 4 would be reduced from 16 quarts to 14 quarts monthly, while pregnant and partially breastfeeding mothers would be reduced from 22 quarts to 16 quarts monthly.

“We are greatly concerned that reducing dairy in WIC food packages will negatively impact the nutritional intakes and health of program participants, as it will decrease their access to dairy’s nutrients at life stages key for health and development,” the members of congress stated.

They further argued that the proposed reductions would make the WIC program “less attractive to eligible families” and likely result in fewer participants.

“We strongly urge you to not reduce the amount of milk available to WIC families and instead maintain the current WIC dairy allotments in the final rule,” the congressional representatives concluded.

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