Brown rice will be included in 95 percent of state food packages when the new Women, Infants and Children program takes effect Oct 1.

The updated food packages will for the first time include whole grains, fruits and vegetables and will be more closely aligned with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Based on interviews with state WIC directors, USA Rice Federation confirmed that more than 96 percent of the 9 million WIC participants will be eligible to redeem monthly benefits for packages of brown rice at grocery stores.

States offering brown rice as a whole-grain option include the four largest WIC states — California, Texas, New York and Florida — which serve nearly 40 percent of the WIC population, and all six rice-producing states. Hispanics comprise the largest segment of the WIC population, followed by Caucasians, African-Americans, Asians and Native Americans.

Following guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state WIC officials considered nutritional value, cost and cultural food preferences when selecting brown rice and other foods for their state packages.

USDA must approve each state’s package before October.

USDA’s current annual budget for WIC is $6.4 billion.

USDA’s approval to include brown rice in WIC food packages followed a three-year advocacy effort by USA Rice Federation.