The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) safeguards the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. Since households with children are far more likely to be food insecure (20 percent) than households with no children (11.9 percent), WIC plays a critical role in protecting the health of its target population. The program provides nutritious foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and healthcare access in order to safeguard low-income women, infants, and children dealing with, or at risk of developing, nutrition-related health problems.
While hunger affects people of all ages, it is particularly devastating to children. Research shows that poor nutrition during early childhood increases the chance of anemia, limits memory development and can affect a child’s ability to learn. WIC works to prevent child health problems and to improve a child’s growth and development by providing support during a critical period of life.
How WIC Works
Eligibility is limited to families with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level. However, WIC is not an entitlement program – it can only serve as many people as it has funding available. Funding is set each year through the annual appropriations process.
WIC is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and is administered at the local level by state WIC agencies. Eligible participants receive monthly food packages designed to supply the nutrients typically lacking in the diets of the target population. The WIC food package was recently updated to align with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, based on recommendations by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine. WIC also administers nutrition counseling on healthy eating and provides referrals to health care.
 Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Mark Nord, Anita Singh. Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. ERR-125, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. September 2013. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1183208/err-155.pdf