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Priority Policy

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

PRIORITY POLICY

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is one of the nation’s largest federal nutrition programs, serving millions of people each month, including about half of all infants born in the United States. WIC helps qualifying pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 achieve and maintain a healthy weight by providing healthy foods and nutrition education; promoting breastfeeding and supporting nursing mothers; and providing health care and social-service referrals.

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COVID-19 Response

Emergency relief bills approved by Congress allocated nearly $1 billion to WIC to boost access to nutritious foods among women and children, while enabling them to avoid in-person clinic visits that might have increased their exposure to COVID-19.

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Recommendations

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation urges these actions to prevent hunger and increases in poverty.

Extend WIC eligibility to postpartum mothers through the first two years after the birth of a baby, to children through age 6, to align with participation in school meal programs so there is no gap in supports. Policymakers should also enable infants and children to participate for two years before having to reapply. Currently, an eligible individual can receive benefits for six months to one year before they need to reapply.

Ensure that the current waivers that enable families to access WIC services during the pandemic remain in place for as long as needed. These include allowing certification via phone or drive-thru clinics, extending certification periods so children and families receive benefits for longer periods of time, expanding the allowable food items for WIC shoppers, and continuing telehealth models.

Ensure that all women who qualify for WIC based on income and nutritional risk are able to participate, regardless of citizenship and immigration status.

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Fast facts

31

31 states or U.S. territories reported obesity rate declines among 2-to-4 year olds participating in WIC between 2010 and 2018.

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$31.78

Average monthly value of WIC food benefit for kids in 2018.

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44%

In 2018, WIC served 44 percent of those eligible for the program’s services.

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