Women Infants, and Children (WIC) Assessment and Fermented Foods

Researcher: Dr. Jennifer Smilowitz, UC Davis, Department of Nutrition
Timeline: January 2024 – December 2026

*Project is co-funded 50/50 with Dairy Council of California (DCC).

Background: The WIC program provides healthy food packages to meet the specific nutritional needs of pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women and their young children. Unfortunately, WIC only offers yogurt and cheese as its two fermented food options to its clients. WIC clients cannot purchase any other yogurt flavors other than plain, strawberry or vanilla; and cannot purchase Greek yogurt, lactose-free yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt, drinkable yogurt, organic yogurt, kefir, or cottage cheese. These restrictions are barriers to the consumption of culturally appropriate fermented foods. Researchers have a unique opportunity to leverage a multi-disciplinary team of nutrition scientists and collaborations with California Department of Public Health WIC and local Northern California WIC offices to conduct research to understand the potential benefits of expanding the number of fermented dairy foods in the WIC food package. WIC will also help the team develop educational videos, infographics and recipes that are tailored and appropriate for the WIC population.

Industry Benefit: Increased demand for California dairy products. This study will result in collection of the preliminary data needed to pursue additional funding to identify health outcomes and financial savings in medical costs to include a diverse range of culturally appropriate fermented dairy products in the WIC food package (to increase the fermented dairy options provided WIC participants). Empowering families with access to a diverse range of fermented dairy products with educational materials could transform the family’s diet quality, enjoyment for these foods and potential for lifelong health.