The proposal would reduce the monthly allotment of milk to pregnant and partially breastfeeding women by 6 quarts.
It would also reduce benefits by 8 quarts to fully breastfeeding women, 4 quarts to children 1 year old and 2 quarts to children ages 1 through 4.
That could reduce the amount of milk available by 3 to 3-1/2 gallons per month for a pregnant or breastfeeding mother of two young children.
“These substantial reductions in the amount of milk parents can buy for their children will exacerbate the crisis families are facing with skyrocketing prices at the store,” the 28 lawmakers said in a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The WIC program currently allows participants to swap a quart of milk for a quart of yogurt and allows cheese as a substitution option for milk in food packages.
“We are greatly concerned that reducing dairy in WIC food packages will negatively impact the nutritional intakes and health of program participants, as it will decrease their access to dairy’s nutrients at stages key for health and development,” the lawmakers said.
USDA’s proposed rule states the reduced allotments reflect recommendations by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and are more consistent with the supplemental nature of the WIC program.
More than 6 million low-income mothers and children, including an estimated 43% of all infants in the U.S., rely on WIC.
“Reducing WIC benefits for milk and dairy will make life harder for millions of women, new mothers, infants and children at a challenging time of high food costs and rising food insecurity,” said Michael Dykes, DVM, president and CEO of International Dairy Foods Association.
“Moreover, USDA’s own proposal flies in the face of the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” he said.
About 90% of Americans are not consuming enough dairy to meet daily requirements, according to USDA.
A poll by Morning Consultant commissioned by IDFA found 20% of WIC participants would drop out of the program if USDA cuts milk and dairy benefits and 34% are unsure if they would reenroll in the program.
In addition, 15% of participants said it would cause them to purchase less milk.
The poll also found:
• 78% of WIC participants purchase dairy products through the program.
• 76% of participants are concerned with the proposal.
• 35% said they will need to use non-WIC funds to buy milk.
• 26% said it will make shopping for milk harder.
“When more than three-quarters of WIC participants surveyed say they are concerned about the cuts, as they did in this survey, that speaks to a significant breakdown by USDA in doing what’s best for WIC participants,” Matt Herrick, IDFA senior vice president of public affairs and communications, told Capital Press.
The comment period on the proposed rule closed on Feb. 21.