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Obesity Rates Decline Among WIC Participants

New data show declining obesity rates in 41 states and territories among young children enrolled in WIC

Between 2010 and 2016, the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 4 who participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) declined significantly in 41 states and territories, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

WIC provides healthy foods and nutrition education to pregnant women, mothers, and children under age 5. The CDC does not definitively determine the reasons for the decline in obesity rates, but suggests local, state, and national initiatives, as well as recent updates to the WIC food package, may have played a role.

National map of state by state obesity rates of children in WIC in 2016.
Data Interactive

Obesity Rate Data: Children Ages 2-4 in WIC

Obesity rates among children in WIC ranged from a low of 7.9% in Utah to a high of 19.8% in Alaska. See where your state ranks, and explore trends over time.

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Three kids eating food and drinking milk.
Priority Policy

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

WIC is one of the nation’s largest federal nutrition programs, serving approximately 6.3 million low-income people in 2018, including about half of all infants born in the United States.

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Policy Recommendations

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers the following recommendations for extending the positive impact of WIC:

• Congress should increase WIC funding to extend eligibility to postpartum mothers through the first two years after the birth of a baby, and to children through the age of 6 to align with participation in school meal programs.
• Congress should fund the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program at its full authorized amount of $90 million to ensure mothers have access to critical supports. 
• Congress should continue to support and fund efforts to streamline and modernize WIC services through technology, including achieving the congressional mandate for all states to achieve WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) by 2020.
• USDA should maintain the scientific integrity of the WIC food package process as USDA undertakes the Congressionally mandated 10-year cycle revision.
• The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should continue to support and reimburse WIC for its role in lead screening. 

See all policy recommendations

Featured Story

Healthy Drinks Matter for Healthy Kids

What kids drink can have a big impact on their health. Earlier this fall, four of the nation’s leading health organizations released recommendations on what kids ages 0 to 5 should and should not drink. The nutrition guidelines for WIC includes beverage guidelines for young children. We talked to Megan Lott, deputy director of Healthy Eating Research and lead author of the Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood report, to get her perspective on these latest reports and what the data show. She gave us a breakdown on the findings, why they matter, and the impact they will have on our youngest kids.

Read the Interview
Special report

Obesity Rates Decline Among Young WIC Participants

This new report includes the latest state by state obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-old WIC participants and national rates broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. It describes research about how the WIC program impacts child and maternal health, and features recommendations for extending the positive impact of WIC.

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Fast Facts

41

41 states U.S. territories reported obesity rate declines among 2-to-4 year olds participating in WIC between 2010 and 2016.

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29.1%

Percentage of overweight and obesity among children enrolled in WIC, a decrease from 32.5 percent in 2010. 

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5.2M

Number of infants and children who received WIC benefits in 2018.

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According to the CDC, the national rate of obesity among 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC dropped from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.9% in 2016. The decline was statistically significant among all racial and ethnic groups studied: white, black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander. The states and territories that measured obesity declines between 2010 and 2016 are:

Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Connecticut
D.C.
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nevada
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin
Wyoming
Northern Mariana Islands
Guam
Puerto Rico