Positive influence of the revised Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children food packages on access to healthy foods

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Jun;112(6):850-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.02.019.


Background: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has important potential for preventing diet-related disease in low-income children. WIC food packages were recently revised to offer foods that better reflect dietary recommendations for Americans.

Objective: This article reports on how implementation of the new healthier WIC food packages affected access of low-income populations to healthy foods (eg, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and lower-fat milk).

Design: A pre-post store inventory was completed using a standardized instrument to assess availability, variety, quality and prices of WIC-approved foods (65 food items). Stores were assessed before (spring 2009) and shortly after the new WIC package implementation (spring 2010).

Participants/setting: All convenience stores and nonchain grocery stores located in five towns of Connecticut (N=252), including 33 WIC-authorized stores and 219 non-WIC stores.

Statistical analyses performed: The healthy food supply score was constructed to summarize postrevision changes in availability, variety, prices of healthy foods, and produce quality. The effect of the WIC food package revisions was measured by differential changes in the scores for stores authorized to accept WIC benefits and stores not participating in WIC, including differences by neighborhood income. Multivariate multilevel regression models were estimated.

Results: The 2009 introduction of the revised WIC food packages has significantly improved availability and variety of healthy foods in WIC-authorized and (to a smaller degree) non-WIC convenience and grocery stores. The increase in the composite score of healthy food supply varied from 16% in WIC convenience and grocery stores in higher-income neighborhoods to 39% in lower-income areas. Improved availability and variety of whole-grain products were responsible for most of the increase in the composite score of healthy food supply.

Conclusions: Designed as cost-neutral changes, the WIC food package revisions have improved access to healthy foods for WIC participants and society at large.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Commerce / economics
  • Commerce / standards
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Connecticut
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Food Supply / economics
  • Food Supply / standards
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food* / classification
  • Food* / economics
  • Food* / standards
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritive Value
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Public Assistance*
  • Residence Characteristics