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Rate Decline: WIC Participants

CDC reported a decline in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 4 who participate in WIC

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides healthy foods and nutrition education to pregnant women, mothers, and children under age 5. The program currently serves roughly half of all infants born in the United States. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that obesity rates among preschool children enrolled in WIC have declined in recent years.

In 2016, 13.9% of 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC nationally had obesity, down from 15.9% in 2010. The decline was statistically significant among all racial and ethnic groups studied: white, black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander.

Authors from the CDC noted a few reasons that might have contributed to the declines, including:

  • Updates to the package of foods included in WIC, made in 2009, to better align them with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • The 2009 updates also included revisions to promote and support breastfeeding.
  • General increases in awareness of the importance of preventing obesity at an early age, and federal support for state efforts to improve nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding support and screen time limits in early childhood education programs.
  • In a separate study, researchers from the University of North Carolina found that, after revisions to the WIC food package, families participating in WIC purchased food that contained significantly fewer calories, and less sodium, fat and sugar, than the food families bought before the revisions.

An earlier publication with state-by-state data showed that, between 2010 and 2014, the obesity rates decreased in 31 states and three territories, increased in four states and remained stable in the rest. State-by-state data for 2016 are not yet available. The states and territories that measured obesity declines between 2010 and 2014 are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Guam
  9. Indiana
  10. Iowa
  11. Kansas
  12. Kentucky
  13. Louisiana
  14. Maryland
  15. Massachusetts
  16. Michigan
  17. Minnesota
  18. Missouri
  19. Nevada
  20. New Jersey
  21. New Mexico
  22. New York
  23. Northern Mariana Islands
  24. Oklahoma
  25. Oregon
  26. Puerto Rico
  27. South Carolina
  28. Tennessee
  29. Texas
  30. Utah
  31. Virginia
  32. Washington
  33. Wisconsin
  34. Wyoming

More About WIC

WIC Policy Page

This policy synthesis includes some of the latest research on WIC, and recommends policy changes to help improve it.

Read More

Statement on Declining Obesity

A statement from Jamie Bussel, senior program officer and childhood obesity lead at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, regarding declining obesity rates among children participating in WIC

Read Statement

State by State Obesity Rates

This interactive data feature shows state-by-state obesity rates for children participating in WIC.

Interact with Data

Sources

Changes in Obesity Among US Children Aged 2 Through 4 Years Enrolled in WIC During 2010-2016

Trends in Obesity Among Participants Aged 2-4 Years in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – United States, 2000-2014

Trends in Severe Obesity Among Children Aged 2 to 4 Years Enrolled in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children From 2000 to 2014

Post updated in July 2019.