CNN: Bush 'Cuts' Threaten Effort to Fight Obesity in Poor

Update at bottom of post.

On Saturday afternoon, CNN Newsroom ran a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta in which the CNN medical correspondent plugged a proposal for the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program to begin supplying vouchers for fruits and vegetables to its recipients to combat obesity in the poor, and fretted that budget cuts by President Bush could "threaten" a proposed plan to do so. Recounting that the problem for WIC recipients when the program was created 30 ago was "malnutrition, not obesity," Gupta relayed plans by the Agriculture Department to supply vouchers for fruits and vegetables. But Gupta cautioned that because Bush is planning to put WIC on the "chopping block," the plan may be endangered. Gupta: "But some say that might not happen because WIC is on the chopping block, slated for a $145 million cut in President Bush's 2008 budget. ... Nutritionists say that's not good because the WIC produce vouchers could help control obesity." (Transcript follows)

At about 5:43 p.m., the report began with Gupta introducing a mother who receives food vouchers from WIC who "needs help when it comes to feeding and taking care of her year-old baby." He then informed viewers that because at the time of the program's creation malnutrition was the major problem, there are plans to reform the program now that obesity has become the major problem. Gupta: "Since WIC was founded over 30 years ago, thoughts on nutrition have changed. You see, the problem then was malnutrition, not obesity. So most WIC vouchers are for cereal, breads, crackers, milk products. Checks for fresh fruits and vegetables don't exist. So last August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to add produce to the voucher system to give clients a more balanced diet."

The CNN correspondent then warned viewers that President Bush's proposed cuts could hold up the proposed changes for WIC, and played a soundbite of Reverend Douglas Greenaway of the National WIC Association, who warned that Bush's proposal to make budget cuts "threatens the availability of fresh frozen fruits and vegetables" that could reduce obesity in the poor.

Gupta: "They're expected to be available next year, but some say that might not happen because WIC is on the chopping block, slated for a $145 million cut in President Bush's 2008 budget."

Reverend Douglas Greenaway, National WIC Association: "It really threatens the availability of fresh frozen fruits and vegetables, the culturally diverse foods, the changes that are needed to reduce the incidence of obesity and overweight that we're finding amongst WIC mothers and children."

Gupta: "Nutritionists say that's not good because the WIC produce vouchers could help control obesity."

After a soundbite of a nutritionist informing viewers of the potential health benefits of reforming the program, Gupta concluded that until Congress decides how to fund the proposed changes, "mothers like Corina Alvarez will have to continue waiting for produce checks to become available."

Below is a complete transcript of Gupta's story from the Saturday April 28 CNN Newsroom, which ran about 5:43 p.m.:

Sanjay Gupta: "Although her husband works, Corina Alvarez still needs help when it comes to feeding and taking care of her year-old baby."

Corina Alvarez, WIC recipient: "I like for them to give me ideas and I'm a new mom."

Gupta: "So every month Alvarez receives checks for food from WIC. Now, this is a federal grant program, and it's designed to improve the health of low-income women and their children by providing food and counseling on good eating and health care."

Reverend Douglas Greenaway, National WIC Association: "The foods that WIC provides are really the tools that reinforce that nutrition education message that's delivered in 10,000 WIC clinics around the country."

Gupta: "Since WIC was founded over 30 years ago, thoughts on nutrition have changed. You see, the problem then was malnutrition, not obesity. So most WIC vouchers are for cereal, breads, crackers, milk products. Checks for fresh fruits and vegetables don't exist. So last August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to add produce to the voucher system to give clients a more balanced diet. They're expected to be available next year, but some say that might not happen because WIC is on the chopping block, slated for a $145 million cut in President Bush's 2008 budget."

Greenaway: "It really threatens the availability of fresh frozen fruits and vegetables, the culturally diverse foods, the changes that are needed to reduce the incidence of obesity and overweight that we're finding amongst WIC mothers and children."

Gupta: "Nutritionists say that's not good because the WIC produce vouchers could help control obesity."

Katherine Tallmadge, American Dietetic Association: "Studies have shown that women and children and infants who participate in the program have improved nutrition, mothers give birth to fewer low-birthweight babies, which saves medical costs."

Gupta: "Congress is now debating the finances for WIC. The final decision will likely come in the fall. Until then, mothers like Corina Alvarez will have to continue waiting for produce checks to become available. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting."

Update/Related Posts:

CNN's Gupta Prescribes Democratic Talking Point (Michael M. Bates, NewsBusters)

CNN Doc: We Need More Handouts for the Obese (Julia Seymour, BMI)