The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a nutrition and health care program for low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children. Through WIC, women and children receive food packages to promote a nutritious diet and improve development. Recent changes provide a wider range of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as allowing certain substitutions such as rice, tortillas, tofu and a greater selection of beans. Women also receive nutrition education through WIC so they are better prepared to raise healthy children. Given that breast milk provides health, nutritional, and other benefits to babies, WIC also promotes breastfeeding through education and counseling services. The program currently serves 9 million women and children under the age of five.
For those who participate, the benefits of WIC are numerous. Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) studies found that WIC participants displayed an overall improvement in health, with increased birth outcomes, healthier diet, and improved cognitive development. WIC participants are also more likely to receive regular health care. NETWORK applauds WIC for providing needy women and children with these nutrition and health benefits.
Given the many benefits of the program, it is disheartening that only about 63% of those eligible for WIC received benefits in 2010. This percentage will only continue to increase, as WIC is impacted by the March 2013 sequestration. WIC will have to cut five percent of its caseloads – up to 750,000 low-income women and children.