Statement attributed to Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center.
WASHINGTON, October 3, 2017 — “More than 8 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to age 5 received benefits in 2014 through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) — including food, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the program served 80 percent of eligible infants, but just 46 percent of eligible children ages 1 to 5.
“The USDA report reveals a disturbing trend of declining WIC participation. In 2014, WIC served an estimated 54.8 percent of eligible women, infants, and children, down from 59.3 percent in the prior year.
“From 2005–2014, WIC’s overall participation rate (participants compared to those eligible to receive benefits) has fluctuated within the range of 55 to 64 percent: In 2005, participation was estimated at 56.5 percent, increasing each year to a high of 63.5 percent in 2011. Participation has been on a downward trajectory since, reaching a low of 54.8 percent in 2014 (later data are not available, but the total number of participants has dropped in the last three years).
“This drop in coverage is problematic as it deprives millions of low-income children of benefits that are important to their healthy growth and development. Good nutrition is important in all stages of life, but particularly so in the earliest years, when it serves as a critical building block for a healthy future.
“Participation in WIC is associated with not only better diets for both mothers and children, which reduces childhood obesity, but healthier births, lower infant mortality, increased immunization rates and access to regular health care. Children who participate in WIC also are likely to have better academic outcomes than low-income children who do not benefit from the program.
“It is imperative that policymakers, state agencies, and advocates take action to maximize participation in this essential nutrition program. To this end, FRAC is partnering with anti-hunger, health, and nutrition advocates; WIC program administrators; and WIC-authorized grocery stores on the Work to Improve the Reach and Impact of WIC for Very Young Children and Pregnant Women initiative. Through this effort, FRAC and its partners are developing and advocating for effective recommendations and strategies to maximize WIC participation.”
The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Learn more at frac.org.