The Missouri Dairy Association recently asked the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to reconsider its decision to eliminate cheese from the Womens, Infants and Children (WIC) approved list of foods for young children and some women.
"We were shocked to learn of this," said MDA president Larry Purdon, of Purdy. "The decision was made in April, but no one informed us."
According to Suzanne Ball, WIC coordinator, the decision was a financial consideration made at the state level.
"Everyone is trying to cut costs and fight inflation," Ball said. "This was just a change made in the program. Although the cheese portion was cut, the nutritional value remains the same because they added an additional gallon of milk. By making this change, the state saved a lot of money."
Purdom said the change will affect an estimated 625,000 pounds of cheese consumption.
"Together, low-fat and fat-free milk, cheese and yogurt provide a unique package of nine essential nutrients," Purdom said, "including calcium, potassium, phosphorous, protein, vitamins A, D and B12, riboflavin and niacin.
"In addition, cheese, for the large part, is the economic driver for the milk price received by dairy farmers," Purdom said. This is a real kick in the teeth for dairy farmers, on top of the drought."
MDA representatives have requested the USDA reconsider their decision on the elimination of cheese from the WIC package.
"We hope the USDA will look at other alternatives rather than cutting a product made by our milk and processed by Dairy Farmers of America and Schrieber Foods, Inc.," Purdom said.
Ball said the health department is still awaiting word from the USDA on re-instating cheese into the nutrition packages.