Since 1978, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food Program has served low-income, at risk pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5. The purpose of the WIC program is to provide foods which target nutrients that are likely insufficient in the diets of low-income women, infants, and children.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has charged the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with creating an expert committee to evaluate WIC Food Packages (the list of specific foods WIC participants obtain each month). IOM only updates contents of WIC Food Packages every ten years, which does not keep up with the state of science.
Statistics from CDC states that Hispanic babies are at higher risk of brain and spine birth defects, and therefore mothers who take folic acid can reduce that risk considerably. In a new study of 45,300 children, researchers found that exposure to folic acid and/or multivitamin supplements before pregnancy was associated with a lower likelihood of autism spectrum disorders in the offspring compared with no exposure before pregnancy.
Despite WIC’s many successes, micronutrient deficiency in this population remains a problem in the U.S.
WIC Food Packages have included vitamin and micronutrient fortified foods for decades with mixed success. This is most likely due to a combination of limited access to fortified foods at local grocery stores and cultural eating habits which have resulted in greater consumption of fortified foods. Much of micro-efficiency and efficacy data on micronutrients have been collected from studies involving dietary supplements and not necessarily fortified foods. Consumers should have a choice for healthy options like a multivitamin, especially in food deserts where obtaining optimum nutrition is unlikely.