WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, is vital to the health and well-being of nearly half of our nation’s babies, along with millions of young children up to age five and their mothers. Yet, recent research based on 2021 data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service shows more than six million of those who are eligible for the program are missing out on its proven health benefits.
The just-released study reports that an average of 12.13 million moms, babies, and young children were eligible for WIC in 2021. However, only 51%, or 6.21 million, of those who were eligible actually participated.
A number of new findings are included in this year’s report: coverage rates by urban and poverty status; participation rates by state, race, and ethnicity; state estimates by WIC participation category, race, and ethnicity; and nonparticipation rates among Medicaid and SNAP participants.
While eligibility estimates for 2022 and 2023 are not available yet, preliminary data shows that WIC participation is rising in most states, with 6.7 million moms, babies and young kids benefitting from the program today. But sustaining that progress will depend on congressional action to maintain the longstanding bipartisan commitment to provide enough funding for WIC to serve all eligible people seeking to join the program. The Biden-Harris Administration asked Congress early this fall to fund WIC at the level needed to support this increased participation, but Congress has yet to take action on the request.
A failure to fully fund WIC this fiscal year means some states would likely need to put eligible families on waiting lists.
“We’re making progress in connecting more of our nation’s youngest children and moms with WIC’s life-changing benefits,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It’s up to Congress to fully fund WIC this fiscal year and continue the 25-year bipartisan track record of making sure every eligible low-income mom, infant, and child seeking WIC services can get the vital nutrition they need to thrive.”