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40% of America’s Infants Could Lose Food and Nutrition Assistance This Friday

Next week, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will celebrate its 50th anniversary. This essential evidence-based nutrition assistance program helps mothers and children through critical periods, including pregnancy, postpartum, and breastfeeding. Currently, about 6.7 million people, consisting of 3.6 million children, 1.5 million infants, and nearly 1.5 million women benefit from this program. The program helps almost 40% of all America’s infants. Program participants have experienced increased access to healthy foods, preventative care, and vaccinations. Additionally, WIC participation has been shown to result in fewer infant deaths and reduce the risk of low birth weight. Over the past few years, there has been a significant and commendable increase in WIC participation due to local and state-level efforts by WIC staff.  

But, for the first time in a generation, funding for this longstanding and historically bipartisan program is at risk. This is a discretionary program, meaning sufficient funds to serve all eligible participants are not guaranteed by law. Additionally, funding for the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the WIC program, expires this Friday-January 19th. In the past two continuing resolutions (CR), Congress did not grant full funding for this essential public health program. Instead, they indicated that the USDA and states should spend the current funding faster for the first half of the fiscal year (FY) through March 2024. Without full funding, states will not be able to support millions of eligible pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children. States will be forced to prioritize who can receive WIC services and push previously eligible mothers and children on waiting lists. 

Advocates such as the National WIC Association are urging Congress to support full funding for WIC and the inclusion of the fruit and vegetable program. The current political uncertainty could jeopardize years of hard work to ensure that families can reap the vast benefits of WIC to ensure the health and well-being of mothers and children.  

For more information about WIC funding, check out the National WIC Association’s advocacy page, the WIC hub, or Mom’s Rising call line.  

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