NCGA Applauds WIC’S Efforts to Help Ensure Organic Produce Eligibility

Dec 24, 2008

National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) applauds the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s recent action to help ensure WIC recipients’ ability to use WIC vouchers to purchase organic produce.

WIC provides federal grants to states, which – in turn – provide vouchers to low-income families that can be redeemed for select food items (including produce), health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant and postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

While use of these vouchers for conventional produce has been well-understood by most grocers, there has been considerable confusion and mixed messages about voucher use for organic versions of this produce. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service recently sent an email to WIC state agencies to clarify that organic versions of fruits and vegetables already are allowed under WIC, can be purchased with WIC vouchers.

“This is a great start for ensuring WIC recipients have access to organic food,” said Robynn Shrader who, as chief executive officer of NCGA, also represents food co-ops within the National Organic Coalition (NOC). “NOC will continue to advocate for expanding organic food options eligible under WIC to other food categories in the future.”

While organic produce is allowed under WIC, other types of organic products may or may not be offered by states through WIC. In an email to state agencies,USDA-FNS further clarified that states have the authority to limit purchases of dairy, eggs and packaged products to specific brands and products, and -- therefore -- can exclude organic versions of these products.

At a Washington, D.C., planning meeting earlier this month, NOC identified as part of its 2009 priorities that it would work to engage state WIC agencies to further broaden the availability of organic purchases at a state level, via a federal mandate.