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Pundit’s Mailbag — The WIC Program

Our article on the WIC Program prompted one reader to write:

I had an opportunity to speak with Stephen Christianson who manages WIC, and I asked if there is any evidence that this actually increases the consumption of fruits and vegetables. He said that he didn’t know!

My point was: let’s say a family has $200 to spend on groceries per month. And of that $200, $35 comes from WIC. If based on their normal consumption, they spend $40 on fruits and vegetables total, who cares where the money comes from? Shifting where the money comes from doesn’t automatically increase the consumption.

All we have done is shift some of the spending on fruits and vegetables from their own cash to government money. It’s not increasing the size of the pie, it’s only changing how they pay for their slice.

I think you said it in one of your [PRODUCE BUSINESS] editorials several months ago. Our efforts have to be focused on education, not these minimally incremental changes to a government food program.

What I wrote about is the need to seek effective policies. Politicians want to do something for their constituents. Trade associations want to do something for their members. It is one reason industry members of trade association boards of directors have such a valuable role to play. They have to determine the priorities, what really matters. If they don’t seize that leadership, then lots will be done but, as they say, it is hard to get there if you don’t know where you want to go.

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