As of early November 2023, draft appropriation bills by both the House of Representatives and the Senate do not adequately fund the WIC nutrition support program, threatening to break a nearly 30-year, bipartisan commitment to ensure all participants can access the program without waitlists.
(Washington, DC – 11/20/23) – Access to nutritious food is critical to preventing many chronic diseases and is particularly important to keep young children on track with their growth and developmental needs. In 2022, an estimated 12.8 percent of U.S. households experienced food and or nutrition insecurity sometime during the year.
As Trust for America’s Health’s (TFAH) State of Obesity report series has demonstrated, food insecurity is a risk factor for obesity and other nutrition-related chronic diseases. Progress on addressing these critical public health issues is in jeopardy if Congress does not provide funding for federal nutrition support programs during the current fiscal year.
One of the key federal nutrition programs supporting the specific nutritional needs of young children, infants, and birthing people is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC. Created in 1972, the WIC program is a short-term, public health intervention program designed to strengthen lifetime nutrition and health behaviors within households with low-incomes. The WIC program provides nutrition benefits tailored to support a young child’s development. Over time, the program, including its food packages, has aligned with new science about the key nutrients infants and children need. These changes have had a significant impact. Studies show that the 2007 benefit update helped improve beneficiaries’ diets and decreased rates of obesity among enrolled toddlers ages 2-4.
The WIC program also adapted to challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing new flexibilities, such as allowing WIC agencies to remotely load benefits cards. In 2021, Congress also increased the monthly benefit available to families to purchase more fruits and vegetables from $9 to $26 for children, and from $11 to $47 for pregnant and postpartum participants. These changes modernized the program and in turn increased participation; important because WIC has long had lower participation rates in comparison to the number of eligible families.
Today, nearly seven million parents and children under five years old depend on the WIC program, and participation is expected to grow due to increased program flexibilities. To keep up with increased demand, additional program funding is needed. As of early November 2023, draft appropriation bills by both the House of Representatives and the Senate do not adequately fund the WIC program, which threatens to break a nearly 30-year, bipartisan commitment to ensure all participants can access WIC without waitlists. Increasing food costs, make action to grow the WIC program critically important as families are struggling to afford healthy meals and may be forced to turn to cheaper but less nutritious alternatives.
Critical public health programs like WIC not only provide nutritious foods to families in the short term, but also help prevent diet-related diseases. Trust for America’s Health urges Congress to increase funding in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget for the WIC program to ensure pregnant and postpartum birthing people and their young children have the nutrition they need to enjoy good