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The Truth Behind WIC: Organic is NOT an Option!

Web Note: Be sure to check the list of states at the bottom of this article to see if organic is available in your state's WIC program.

In February 2009, Washington State decided to remove organic milk from its list of ‘approved foods’ reimbursable by the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC). Though this decision led to serious backlash from organic consumers and supporters nationwide, what may be a little known fact to many is that slashing organic produce from WIC approved food lists for ‘reasons related to cost’ is currently being practiced in almost every single state. Forbidding organic products from WIC is frighteningly nothing out of the ordinary!

The WIC program, run by the Food and Nutrition Services of the USDA, provides Federal aid to more than 8 million low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children under the age of five who are deemed to be at nutritional risk. In seeking to help these women and children, WIC claims that they do not limit women’s choices or their individual dietary preferences in any way. WIC also states that it “safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information”. How then, is it acceptable for states to limit if not completely forbid WIC recipients from choosing the healthiest food options available? Organic produce has been proven time and time again to provide individuals with healthier options and higher nutrition levels than their conventional counterparts; why are women being prohibited from their very right of freedom of choice?

Currently, our government allows states to amend WIC approved foods based on their own discretion (a decision they claim is almost always influenced by cost). WIC State agencies are ultimately responsible for determining the brands and types of foods authorized on State WIC food lists. If WIC truly supports optimal nutrition and if aid programs are really seeking to best help those in need, the federal government should disallow states from barring organics from their WIC approved food lists.

By disallowing the purchase of certain foods, WIC is taking away women’s right to choose the healthiest possible option: organic food. So long as WIC recipients are not going over their monthly allowances, it should not matter whether they are choosing to buy organic or not. If anything, the purchase of organic goods should be encouraged! Buying organic products always benefits not only an individual’s health but also the environment’s; it also supports one of our economy’s fastest growing sectors and the responsible corporations and farmers who promote it!

Without the option to purchase organic products, women and their children are being forced to comply to a list of products laden with pesticides, unknown growth hormones, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and genetically modified ingredients.

In light of these current WIC laws, please stay tuned for an Action Alert related to laws dealing with organic produce in WIC. Given, the upcoming revision of Child Nutrition Act in September, let’s tell Congress to stop limiting women’s options for organic foods and allowing states to ban organic products from WIC!

States that explicitly say “No Organics” at all :

Alabama  
Alaska
Arizona
Colorado
Florida
Hawaii
Idaho
Kentucky
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Nebraska
Nevada
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Utah
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

States that do not explicitly forbid all organic products (but do disallow some):

Arkansas
California
Delaware
Georgia
Illinois
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana
Montana
Missouri
Tennessee
Texas
Washington

We couldn’t find any approval information on the following states. Do you know whether they allow women to purchase organic food through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children? If so, please post what you know in our Web forum.

Connecticut
Indiana
Mississippi
New Hampshire
New York
Vermont

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords: