This USDA Program is Looking to Make Vegan Dairy More Accessible
42 percent of Americans believe that plant-based foods will overtake meat options by 2032, and now, a new government program might help millions gain access to vegan dairy products such as dairy-free milk, yogurt, and more.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) just proposed that additional vegan dairy products should be included in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This program aims to support the health and general well-being of women and children nationwide that suffer from nutritional deficiencies or food insecurity.
The proposed measures will increase the level of dairy and eggs provided to WIC users, but the USDA included plant-based alternatives to give users a choice to eat plant-based. The USDA will include product substitutes such as soy yogurt and vegan cheese as well as tofu to supplement the eggs.
“USDA is committed to advancing maternal and child health through WIC, helping mothers, babies, and young kids thrive,” Tom Vilsack, US Agriculture Secretary said in a statement. “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.”
Treating Nutrient Deficiency With Plant-Based Food
About 94 percent of Americans suffer from at least one nutrient deficiency, and the WIC program intends to provide proper foods to support the diverse and varied needs of its users. By introducing vegan foods to nearly 6 million participants nationwide, the USDA is effectively working to fill nutritional gaps with plant-based foods.
“It is great to see USDA's new proposed rule increase WIC’s fruit and vegetable benefit," Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said. The new WIC package will strengthen a program that is proven to help mothers and babies flourish.”
The program also intends to expand its general food offerings. For example, the USDA will expand the whole wheat grains category to include whole wheat bagels, blue cornmeal, quinoa, and teff. WIC will also provide three to four times more vegetable and fruit supplements as well as access to beans as a protein source rather than solely meat.
“For the more than 6 million moms, babies, and young children who participate in WIC — and the millions more eligible to participate — these proposed revisions have the potential to make positive, life-long impacts on health and well-being,” Stacy Dean, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said.
The USDA is taking comments on its new proposed updates until February 21, 2023.
Plant-Based Solutions to Food Insecurity
Over 13 million American households currently face food insecurity, made worse by food deserts and rising food prices. This September, President Joe Biden discussed a plan to fix the broken food system with an emphasis on increasing access to nutritious, sustainable foods. The plan ending hunger, making food labels clearer, adding nutrition to medical training for doctors, and fighting climate change by re-engineering the way food is produced.
The U.S. government launched several initiatives that will undercut America's dependency on the meat and dairy industries, unveiling nutrition-centric initiatives that will help guide consumers toward more sustainable options in the next decade. Kindercare pledged to double vegetable servings to over 40,000 school-age children by 2025 by improving the affordability and accessibility of healthier foods in school systems nationwide.
When addressing the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, President Biden declared: “In every country in the world, in every state in this country, no matter what else divides us, if a parent cannot feed a child, there’s nothing else that matters to that parent.”
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