Nutrition: SNAP guidelines are not adequate for good health

There has been much discussion at the federal level about the difficulty in feeding kids a healthy diet on a limited income — particularly in regions labeled “food deserts.” For many families, it is more affordable to feed kids what amounts to junk food; and a trip to a large grocery store is another expense.

Here in West Virginia, there are 40,000 participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program, which is available to women, children and families at up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Important changes to the program might make a difference for the health of some of those children.

The list of approved foods for WIC now includes yogurt, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, whole wheat pasta, corn tortillas, more options for whole wheat tortillas, whole grain rice and organic baby food. There are also now more package sizes available for cheese, juice, bread and buns. Those changes took effect Oct. 1, and also include an increase from the previous $8 monthly allotment for fruits and vegetables for kids … to $9.

Stop and think about that for a moment — $9 worth of fruits and vegetables to last a full month, for kids whose families participate in the program. In fact, the WIC Approved Foods list in West Virginia is very specific — it spells out one category of food that is available only to women who are fully breastfeeding their children, for example.

West Virginia University research shows nearly 30 percent of West Virginians live in areas that have low or extremely low access to adequate quality and fresh foods. WIC benefits are accepted at 265 grocery stores in the Mountain State, but access is still sometimes a problem.

Revisions to the program that expand options and encourage better nutritional habits may mean healthier kids — and that is good news for us all.