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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WIC should include more organic

WIC should include more organic, says Senate; House disagrees

If the House of Representatives gets its way, low-income mothers and their children will not have access to a wide range of certified organic foods. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act is up for renewal on Sept. 30, 2010 and mandates specific foods that must be included as part of the Women, Infants, Children Program. To date, the Senate version of the Act insists on the inclusion of a variety of organic foods for WIC recipients, while the House version includes only organic produce.

WIC is a federally funded, state-controlled initiative that provides nutritional assistance to low income pregnant and post-partum women and children up to age five who are nutritionally at risk. Each state decides which foods it will include on the list, though the federal government can mandate that certain food categories be on the list.

If the Senate version passes, low-income consumers would have access to foods that could ultimately provide lifelong benefits. “Final passage of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act provides Congress a chance to address both unfinished business and new opportunities to promote healthy development,” said Charles Benbrook, PhD, chief scientist at the Organic Center, based in Boulder, Colo. “Providing easier access for moms, families and children to fresh, nutrient dense organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables is a key piece of unfinished business. Expanding access to organic dairy products will promote healthy brain and nervous system development because of the far healthier balance in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in organic dairy products,” he said.

One of the perceived barriers to placing more organic foods on the WIC list is cost, even though retailers say they are willing to work within the cost constraints. “Many co-ops and natural food stores across the country want to meet the needs of their communities, including families that rely on WIC,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which represents 114 natural food co-ops nationwide. “By allowing states to prohibit nutritious and organic purchases, WIC limits the benefit it can provide people who need WIC’s assistance most.”

The Organic Trade Association is asking you to call your member of Congress (not Senate) to include organic foods in the WIC program.

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