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WASHINGTON - The Food Marketing Institute today applauded Wednesday's vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to reauthorize the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program for the next four years.
Tim Hammonds, FMI president and c.e.o., called the vote a "tremendous victory for the consumers who rely on this essential nutrition program and for retailers and wholesalers that serve them.
"The legislation will help women and children stretch their WIC dollars," Hammonds said. "It will promote technology that speeds the delivery of WIC benefits. It will help shut down the black market for infant formula. And, perhaps most importantly, it will put systems in place at the state level to promote future improvements."
FMI is strongly encouraging the Senate to adopt the reforms.
Specifically, the bill will:
• Encourage states to allow consumers to buy less costly private label products through the program.
• Maintain consumer access to WIC items by encouraging states to grant interim licenses to new stores or outlets than have changed ownership.
• Help prevent infant formula theft and counterfeiting by requiring that these products be purchased only from authorized retailers, wholesalers and suppliers.
• Require all states that receive federal funding for WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems to observe national technical standards -- a measure that will speed the adoption of lower-cost electronic delivery of WIC benefits.
The reforms are among the recommendations in a 2002 report by the FMI WIC Task Force, composed of 22 food retail industry executives that help oversee the program at the state and federal levels. The task force is chaired by Liz Chace-Marino, a former WIC program administrator and current director of government and corporate affairs at The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company based in Boston, Mass.
The reauthorization measure, titled the Child Nutrition Improvement & Integrity Act (H.R. 3873), covers the WIC and other child nutrition programs. The Senate is expected to take up the legislation in the near future.