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336331

U.S. farm agency proposes hike to nutrition benefits for families

By Leah Douglas

Nov 17 (Reuters) - Mothers and children who receive benefits from a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition program would be able to spend more money on a wider range of groceries under proposed changes to the program introduced by USDA on Thursday.

The changes to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program - which serves more than 6 million people, according to USDA - are based on recommendations from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, said the agency's Food and Nutrition Service in a release.

"These proposed revisions have the potential to make positive, life-long impacts on health and well-being,” said Stacy Dean, USDA deputy undersecretary for food, nutrition and consumer services, in a statement.

USDA also proposed expanding the list of groceries WIC participants can buy with their benefits to include grains like quinoa and teff, a range of non-dairy milks and cheeses as well as canned fish and beans. The agency had committed to updating the foods offered to WIC participants in the White House national hunger strategy released in September.

The revisions would make permanent an increase in fruit and vegetable benefits that was passed by Congress in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The boost has increased child intake of produce, according to a report by the National WIC Association, a nonprofit.

WIC serves low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, as well as infants and children up to age five. Participants must use their benefits on specific USDA-approved foods.

The agency will be collecting comments on the proposed changes until Feb. 21, it said in the release. (Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Josie Kao)

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