Yale: Families on food assistance buying fewer full-fat dairy products

Mercy Weaver looks in the dairy section as she enjoys the grand opening of a Trader Joe's in Pinecrest, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Mercy Weaver looks in the dairy section as she enjoys the grand opening of a Trader Joe’s in Pinecrest, Fla. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)


Efforts to reduce consumption of saturated fat among women and young children receiving food assistance appear to be paying off, according to a study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity.

In a news release put out this week, the center stated that purchases of whole milk and cheese have decreased among families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children after the program was revised in 2009 to offer foods that better reflect dietary recommendations for Americans. The study is published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The WIC program is designed to help meet the nutritional needs of pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children who are at nutritional risk. Prior to the WIC food package revisions, allowances of milk and cheese exceeded dietary recommendations for dairy consumption in very young children, and most milk consumed was whole milk. After the revisions, whole milk was authorized only to children under age 2, while women and older children received milk with no more than 2 percent milk fat. States could further restrict it to low-fat or skim milk. Cheese allowances were largely reduced too.

The Yale researchers examined milk and cheese purchases made at a New England supermarket chain by Connecticut households participating in WIC over a two-year period. Milk and cheese volume purchased by these households were compared before and after the WIC revisions.

The most significant change after the WIC revisions was replacement of whole milk with lower-fat varieties, resulting in a reduction in consumption of saturated fat from purchased milk. Prior to the revisions in Connecticut, whole milk accounted for, on average, 57 percent of total milk purchases and 56 percent of WIC milk purchases. Researchers found that this allocation changed significantly with the new WIC packages. The whole-milk share declined to 33 percent in total milk purchases, and 25 percent in WIC milk purchases. Purchases of WIC cheese using WIC benefits declined after the revisions by 77 percent.


Amanda Cuda