There’s a game-changing proposal to add dairy-free milk and cheese to the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program. Egg substitutes would also be included.
WIC is an assistance program that aims to safeguard the health of low-income women and children under the age of 5. About 6.2 million women and children participated each month in fiscal year 2021. Designed to fill in nutrition gaps, the program provides free vouchers for foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, milk, eggs and cheese. Currently, the only dairy-free alternative the program allows for is soymilk. Through the proposed revisions, WIC would expand the variety of dairy-free milks and egg-free options, including soy yogurt, vegan cheese, and tofu.
We applaud the proposed changes. The Secretary of Agriculture says, “USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC, helping mothers, babies, and young kids thrive. These proposed changes will strengthen WIC—already an incredibly powerful program—by ensuring it provides foods that reflect the latest nutrition science to support healthy eating and bright futures.”
Besides protecting women and children from the harmful affects of the saturated fat and cholesterol, plant-based milks protect children who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar primarily found in milk and dairy products. It is caused by a shortage of lactase in the body, an enzyme active in the small intestine that is needed to digest lactose. It is estimated that 36% of Americans and 68% of the world population have some degree of lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance affects people from certain ethnic populations and races—such as African-Americans, Native Americans, and east Asians.