Fruit and Vegetable Availability and Selection

The 2009 changes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food basket added an allowance of $6–$10 per participant per month for the purchase of fruits and vegetables (FV). It also required the nearly 49,000 authorized retail dealers nationwide to carry fruits and vegetables, potentially expanding availability in rural, low-income, and minority neighborhoods.

These researchers studied whether the new food package improved fruit and vegetable availability, especially for African Americans and Latinos. Trained observers assessed WIC vendors in seven southern Illinois counties, looking at eight fruit and vegetable categories: commonly consumed fresh FV, culturally specific African-American FV, culturally specific Latino FV, frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, canned vegetables, canned vegetables with no added salt, and canned fruits. They compared pre-policy availability to post-policy availability for pharmacies, small vendors, and large vendors.

Overall, availability of five FV types improved. Large vendors that previously had not offered fresh FV added them to their inventory. Small vendors and pharmacies appeared to meet WIC requirements with canned or frozen vegetables.

When looking at changes by neighborhood characteristics (population density, median household income, racial/ethnic composition), no differences were found in availability after WIC changes.