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Altarum Study Finds Federal Mandate Making Food Healthier In Small Stores

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A study funded by the Ann Arbor-based Altarum Institute indicates that small stores participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program are adding healthier foods to their inventories, as mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Altarum conducted the study to examine the impact of the changes to the WIC food package on small WIC vendors in Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In low-income communities located great distances from grocery stores with healthy food options, small stores (corner and convenience stores) are often WIC participants’ only local access points to WIC foods.

Loren Bell, Altarum Institute Fellow and WIC study author, suggested that small stores in inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas can face unique obstacles in keeping produce fresh.

“Challenges aside, these findings are significant because they strongly indicate that small vendors can meet the demands of the new WIC guidelines,” Bell said. “This has immediate, positive impact on the WIC population. And let’s not forget, as WIC vendors see the value of making healthier food options available to the WIC population, they act as a catalyst for expanded healthy food options for the broader community.”

Nearly half of all children born in the U.S. participate in the WIC program.

“This study was important for many reasons,” Bell said. “Of course it was critical to validate that changes in the WIC food package are manifesting in better food options for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. It was also important to demonstrate the central role program evaluation must play as these changes are being implemented. Policymakers desperately need to know what is, and is not, working as they contemplate future changes in this and other child nutrition programs.”

The study is available on the Altarum website at http://www.altarum.org/node/584.

Altarum offers research and consulting in health and health care. It employs more than 400 people in Ann Arbor and offices in the Washington, D.C., area; Sacramento, Calif.; Atlanta, Ga.; Portland, Maine; and San Antonio, Texas.

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