Today, the National WIC Association (NWA), the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI), Vouchers 4 Veggies – EatSF, and 95 of the nation’s leading food and nutrition security, health policy, retail and agriculture, and child health organizations sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging an extension of the short-term increase to WIC benefits for healthy foods that expires on September 30. After four months of increased access to vegetables and fruits, over 4.7 million WIC participants will see a benefits cliff on September 30.
Prior to this summer, the monthly Cash Value Benefit (CVB) for vegetable and fruit purchases was $9 per child and $11 for pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act, this summer, state agencies provided a monthly benefit of $35 per child and per adult – more than triple the previous value. The President’s Budget called for a yearlong extension of this benefit bump, and both the House and Senate appropriations bills provided adequate funding to extend this increase until September 2022. Congress has not yet taken final action to authorize the increase and ensure families can access these benefits on October 1.
The 98 organizations that signed onto this letter urge Congress to act swiftly – before September 30 – to extend the WIC benefit increase so that mothers and their children have adequate resources to ensure nutrition security for the next 12 months.
Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA):
“The September 30 deadline is fast approaching, and families cannot wait for Washington theatrics to feed their children healthier meals. The WIC benefit bump is a much-needed support for families with young children, a constructive partnership with American agriculture, and a long-delayed step to align available WIC foods with independent scientific recommendations. In just a few short months, WIC purchases have skyrocketed and providers are serving thousands of new children that are drawn to a greater value for vegetables and fruits. Congress should not miss this opportunity to continue to do right by our nation’s children and extend the WIC vegetable and fruit benefit bump for an entire year.”
Robert Greenwald, Faculty Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School:
“There is clear evidence that increasing WIC’s cash value benefit for fresh produce is an effective policy solution to improve individual health outcomes, support population health, and lower long-term health care costs. We are proud to join the National WIC Association, Vouchers 4 Veggies – EatSF, and dozens of expert voices in calling on Congress to support nutrition security and fight for longer, healthier lives for pregnant and postpartum individuals and children across the country.”
Emily Broad Leib, Faculty Director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic, Deputy Director of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School:
“The pandemic has exposed just how critical adequate WIC benefits are to supporting families. We can help mitigate future crises by supporting WIC participants’ access to nutritious foods, reducing strains on our health care system from preventable, diet-related chronic diseases, and supporting local food producers and farmers. We urge Congress to act now and extend the increased WIC cash value benefit.”
Dr. Hilary Seligman, Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco:
“We hear from WIC families time and time again that regular access to healthy foods is simply out of reach. Fruit and vegetable benefits encourage healthy eating, support the health of pregnant people, and improve birth outcomes. Extending the increased WIC cash-value benefit will not only help ensure WIC families have access to the nutrition they need to lead healthy lives but also contribute substantially to our national, state, and local economies by supporting local food systems. “
In June, NWA released a report titled “Enhancing the WIC Food Package: Impacts and Recommendations to Advance Nutrition Security,” which highlights an increased benefit for vegetables and fruits as the most significant step that policymakers can take to enhance overall health and align WIC participants’ diets with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Find more information on pages 10-12.
Food Law & Policy, Commentary
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May 18, 2023