Approximately 8 million women, infants and children relied on the WIC program each month.
Each month, WIC provided nutritious food to approximately:
- 4 million children;
- 2 million infants;
- 2 million women.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children – known as WIC – is a preventive program providing low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children with nutritious foods, nutrition education, and improved access to health care in order to prevent nutrition-related health problems in pregnancy, infancy and early childhood. WIC was created in 1974 as a response to the realization that hunger and poverty were widespread in this country and that inadequate nutrition poses real dangers to pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children.
The WIC food packages were revised in 2007 to align the authorized food with the latest nutrition science and guidance. The majority of WIC participants are satisfied with the revised food packages in terms of the new foods offered and changes in the amounts of food. And, as summarized in this brief, there is a growing body of evidence that the revised WIC food packages have favorable impacts on dietary intake, breastfeeding outcomes, and obesity rates. In addition, emerging studies suggest an important role for WIC in improving neighborhood food environments.
Advocates can address state WIC staffing shortages by urging governors and other policy makers to enforce the new requirement that federally funded state WIC positions be exempt from hiring freezes and furloughs—a protection added to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act specifically to eliminate this problem.
The WIC food packages improve the health and nutritional quality of the foods in the program, increase participants’ choices, and expand cultural food options by offering fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread (with the option to substitute whole grain tortillas, rice or other grains) and the option of yogurt, soymilk and tofu. FRAC’s WIC Food Package toolkit provides tools, information and resources to help you work effectively to maximize the value of the WIC food package in your city or state.
Targeted outreach is essential to increasing access to WIC services in underserved diverse communities. State, local, and ITO agencies throughout the United States have found that comprehensive multicultural and multilingual outreach and social marketing campaigns increase participation among these underserved populations. The WIC Multicultural section includes a guide highlighting successful outreach strategies and nutrition education methods for making WIC work in multicultural communities.