INTRODUCTION - The 2007 Interim Rule mandated changes to food packages in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for implementation by 2009. The 2014 Final Rule required additional changes, including increasing the cash value voucher for fruits and vegetables from $6 to $8 for children by June 2014, and allowing only low-fat (1%) or nonfat milk for mothers and children aged 2 to 4 years by October 2014. This study evaluated the effect of the 2014 Final Rule changes on the food environment of small and mid-sized WIC-authorized grocery stores.
METHODS - We analyzed secondary data using a natural experimental design to compare the percentage of shelf space for low-fat and nonfat milk and the number of fresh fruit and vegetable varieties in stock before and after the changes. We collected observational data on 18 small and mid-sized WIC-authorized grocery stores in Nashville, Tennessee, using the Nutrition Environment Measures in Store tool in March 2014 and February 2016.
RESULTS - The mean percentage of shelf space occupied by low-fat and nonfat milk increased from 2.5% to 14.4% (P = .003), primarily because of an increase in the proportion of low-fat milk (P = .001). The mean number of fresh fruit and vegetable varieties increased from 24.3 to 27.7 (P = .01), with a significant increase for vegetables (P = .008) but not fruit.
CONCLUSION - Availability of low-fat milk and variety of fresh vegetables increased after the Final Rule changes in the observed stores. Future research should examine outcomes in other cities.