Since its inception, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has helped millions of women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding, and infants and young children up to age 5, eat healthier foods even on lower incomes. Considered to be one of the most successful nutrition intervention programs for improving maternal and child health, WIC is essential for families across the country. In fact, in 2019, more than 6 million people participated in WIC each month, including roughly half of all infants born in the United States.
The unprecedented increases in unemployment and hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored how vital this federal program—which supplies around $40 in monthly benefits to each participant to purchase nutritious groceries, access nutrition services, health screenings, breastfeeding support, and referrals for healthcare and social services—was and continues to be. With the pandemic, WIC enrollment has grown significantly and experts expect this trend to continue for years.
WIC Provides Families With Essential Support During Difficult Times
We’ve spoken with families from California to Vermont who told us how the WIC program has enabled them to ensure their kids have enough healthy food on a lower budget, providing essential support, particularly during difficult times. Here are their stories:
Angelique Schanbeck and Rebecca Gross
Angelique Schanbeck chats with her friend Rebecca Gross about raising her three young children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Angelique’s oldest—five-year-old Madison—has autism and is taking remote school classes. Her family received support from the WIC program and gave her the security of affording the nutritious foods they need to live healthy.
Learn more about Angelique’s story here.
Diane Chamberlain and Bo-Yee Poon
Bo-Yee Poon tells Diane Chamberlain about getting WIC benefits after returning from a 16-year stay in China during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure they had healthy foods to eat, Diane delivered WIC groceries to Bo-Yee and her children, and the two women have become good friends.
Learn more about Bo-Yee’s story here.
Meg and Jocelyn York
Spouses Meg and Jocelyn York, discuss learning about the opportunity of applying and qualifying for WIC benefits as a middle-income family, providing great relief as they manage their finances. The couple also shares how WIC taught them healthy ways to feed their toddler and newborn on a lower budget as the COVID-19 lockdown began in Vermont.
Hear more of Meg’s and Jocelyn’s stories here.
Shelly Lanier and Tracy Lasserre
Shelly Lanier tells her best friend Tracy Lasserre about becoming a mom at age 41 and how WIC services have helped her adjust to motherhood. She describes how WIC’s prenatal classes taught her essential lessons about nutrition so that she could make sure both she and her baby stayed healthy.
Listen to Shelly and Tracy tell their stories here.
How to Ensure WIC Can Continue to Meet Families’ Needs
These and many other stories from families across the country confirm that WIC is a vital resource that keeps millions of moms and kids from experiencing hunger. But the need is great and far from met. Recently, Jamie Bussel, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), spoke with Brian Dittmeier, senior public policy counsel at the National WIC Association, about a new report that documents how the pandemic has affected WIC, how WIC has adapted to continue serving its participants, and what additional supports and resources are still needed to ensure that the program can meet the needs of families today and going forward.
WIC is one of our country’s most vital programs, not just for the number of families it serves, but for the impact it has.
WIC Innovates to Support Maternal and Child Health During the Pandemic
Find out more about how WIC has been innovating to continue to serve families across the country even during this crisis and what’s still needed to ensure the program not only continues, but expands to meet growing need.
Learn More About WIC
A summary of the WIC program, including who it serves and how participants benefit. Learn how federal relief bills affect WIC and find the latest research about the impact of the program, including how it supports a healthy diet and is linked with reducing obesity rates among young children.
State Policy Data
WIC is one of several federal policies that aim to make healthy foods accessible and affordable to children and adults nationwide, and states play a big role in how these policies are implemented. Explore state-by-state data about child food insecurity, WIC and other key federal nutrition programs.
Modernizing and strengthening key child nutrition policies is essential for prioritizing health equity and ensuring America’s recovery from the pandemic. RWJF offers short- and long-term recommendations for the WIC program.