Fiber for Food Assistance: More Whole Grains in Government Food Programs

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Food assistance programs are getting healthier, thanks to nutritional requirements that boost whole grains.

In 2009, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) tweaked its offerings to provide pregnant and postpartum women with healthier options. Before the changes, breakfast cereals were the only grains offered to these women. But after 2009, WIC food packages included whole wheat bread, and 50% of WIC cereals contained whole grains. WIC-authorized stores were also required to carry whole wheat bread and cereal on their shelves.

Did the changes help consumers to include more whole grains in their diet? Researchers from the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity studied bread and rice purchases made at a WIC participating supermarket chain in New England for two years, and reported their findings in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. They found that prior to the WIC changes, most food assistance purchases included white bread and white rice. But after the revisions, the amount of 100% whole wheat bread purchases tripled and brown rice purchases rose by 30%.

By providing more whole grain options, the researchers say, WIC officials were able to meet their goal of increasing whole grain consumption among those relying on food assistance programs. For more about the program, visit the US Department of Agriculture’s site here.

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