USDA Proposes Reducing Dairy Products for WIC Recipients


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed milk reductions for its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a program that currently serves more than six million mothers, infants and children across America. According to the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), if the USDA’s changes are adopted, a pregnant mother with two children under age five could lose three gallons, or more, of milk each month. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers would experience the largest reduction. The dairy industry is standing with WIC participants against USDA’s proposed change.

A recent IDFA poll revealed that three out of four women in the WIC program are concerned with the proposal. In addition, one-third said that they will need outside funds to cover the purchase of dairy products with their weekly groceries. Sadly, the USDA’s proposed change goes directly against the reason the program exists, which is to ensure low-income mothers can provide themselves, their young children, and infants with nutritious foods.

The proposed reduction will harm both WIC participants and the program itself, as the same IDFA poll projected that 20 percent of WIC participants would not re-enroll due to the dairy cuts. That number jumps to 34 percent of women who are unsure if they would re-enroll.

An article put out by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) shared that the dairy cuts are largely a result of a recommendation made to USDA in 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report recommended any and all changes be budget neutral. However, cutting dairy is not. USDA would be going directly against the recommendation given by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine if the proposed dairy cuts were to be fully implemented.


To understand the scope of damage that reducing dairy products from WIC would have requires knowing how the program works. WIC was created by the USDA in 1972 as a pilot project, and then made permanent in 1974, with the goal of addressing malnutrition among lower income mothers and children. The program allows recipients to purchase nutritious foods such as dairy products, meats, and produce that they otherwise could not afford. This is a huge help, as USDA reports there are more than 12 million WIC eligible women and children in the United States. In 2021 WIC helped approximately 6.2 million participants each month. This number is steadily growing as awareness about the program spreads.

The Dairy Industry is on WIC Users Side

The dairy industry has vocally sided with WIC mothers since USDA proposed the cuts. Several prominent dairy organizations, including IDFA and NMPF, have spoken against the change. The dairy industry knows the importance of a balanced diet for young children, and it includes dairy products. Clearly, the dairy associations are willing to fight for WIC mothers in an effort to prevent the loss of dairy products in family diets.

NMPF also submitted public comments to the USDA on its proposal. The comments included concerns about how the cuts will affect nutrition security for children across America.

In their comments, NMPF stated:

“Reducing the amount of dairy available in WIC packages will decrease participants’ access to valuable nutrients needed during pivotal life stages, such as the first thousand days of a child’s life and their mother’s pregnancy and lactation, and those proposed reductions could lead to long-term negative health consequences.”

NMPF shared that it is closely monitoring the situation. WIC mothers can, with confidence, know the dairy industry stands behind them regarding the proposed USDA dairy cuts and is doing everything possible to ensure appropriate dairy product volume remains in the WIC program.

The Impact on Food Security

With nutrition security still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the U.S. economy nearing a recession, any cuts to WIC would negatively impact its participants’ food security. According to the IDFA, cuts would likely take away several gallons of milk per month for some WIC participants. The exact amount depends on the age and number of the children in the household.

By limiting dairy purchases in WIC, the USDA is contradicting itself. The department states that both adults and growing children should consume 2,000 calories daily. This total includes approximately three glasses of milk. Cuts to the dairy allotment would make this virtually impossible.

In addition to the information that the USDA has provided about dairy intake, science has shown that for women, infants, and children, the following dairy products are especially important: milk, yogurt, cheese, and cottage cheese. This is because dairy contains 13 essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Those three nutrients are one reason dairy was included in the WIC program.

Many WIC participants feel access to dairy products is a main reason for joining WIC. By reducing dairy allotments, the feeling of food insecurity related to dairy products may be great enough for some participants to not rejoin. Experts are concerned that without access to dairy products, and the crucial nutrients they provide, many will not sign up at all, resulting in harm to the program.

It is at times like now that we should be focusing on providing nutritious options to low-income women and children, not taking them away.

How You Can Help

Cutting the WIC dairy allotment is in the hands of USDA, a federal government department that “we the people” fund through our tax dollars. With that in mind, the public should learn how USDA spends our tax dollars and why, since what they do impacts the lives of many millions of Americans. USDA’s actions are especially impactful during these challenging times when all Americans are feeling pressure from food price inflation. This constraint on our food security affects low-income families the most and it is up to us to inform our representatives of the issues that impact a free and fed America.

Additional Information:


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