Director of Public Policy
Junior League of Los Angeles
Incorporating Prevention into the WIC Food Package: How Revising WIC Food Packages Can Shift Lives
Overweight, Obesity, and Malnutrition are by far the most common and costly public health concerns facing the United States today, and unfortunately, the inadequate or excessive intake of certain nutrients in the existing WIC food packages have contributed to this skyrocketing trend. In California WIC, for example, 18.6% of Children aged 3 to 5 are overweight, and an additional 17.2% are borderline overweight. This means that well over one third of California WIC participants are suffering from obesity or are at the risk of obesity and its related disease. The consequences of such a development are economically and morally staggering, and can no longer be ignored. The presence of persistent malnutrition and overweight are the main cause of Type II diabetes, heart disease, respiratory difficulty, and psychosocial problems in our youth that in totality cost the State of California an estimated $25 billion annually.
A single program has the ability to reach one-half of all infant caregivers, one-fourth of all preschoolers, and one-third of all expectant mothers in the United States. And, more importantly, this plan is pre-existing. Experts agree that early intervention, coupled with the prevention of high-risk behavior, is key if we are to reverse the current trend in childhood obesity and overweight. Since life-long diet and activity norms are formed early in pliable toddlers, it is imperative that we address the issues early on. Although doing so will be challenging, the scope and focus of WIC’s existing infrastructure offers us a unique opportunity to tackle the problem head on. Clearly the WIC program is a natural and efficient fit for creating a lasting impact on the obesity epidemic in the United States and California.
The economic benefits of averting childhood obesity and its related disease are vast. Since it has been predetermined that the proposed changes in the WIC food packages can be accomplished without an increase in the projected costs, the savings in treatment of averted disease are a yet unrealized gain. It can be assumed, therefore, that going forward, the aggregate benefits of this Pareto policy are abundant and undetermined. Subsequently, the USDA has requested numerous revisions to the WIC program. These include, but are not limited to, the inclusion of fruits and vegetables for participants six months of age and older along with whole grains for both women and children. Additionally, the USDA is calling for the elimination of sugary fruit juices in infant food packages, and the reduction in the maximum amounts of milk, cheese and eggs, which are currently the greatest source of both saturated fat and cholesterol.
Junior League of Los Angeles Position on Revisions to the WIC Food Packages
The Junior League of Los Angeles, along with the our community partners Downtown Women’s Center, Children’s Institute, Inc., Commonground, and Boys and Girls Club of Venice, applaud and support the USDA recommended changes to the WIC food packages. Women, mothers and young children need these revisions in order to safeguard their health and that of their families and communities.