WIC Program at Risk

Sabrina Halvorson Consumer News, This Land of Ours

Millions of people could lose their access to a federal nutrition program.

The nation is now two months into fiscal year 2024 and Congress has yet to provide additional funding for nutrition programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC. WIC provides nutrition assistance for almost 6.7 million pregnant women, new mothers, babies, and young children across the country. Congress has fully funded WIC for more than 25 years however the program’s funding needs have grown due to higher-than-expected participation and food costs.

During a call with reporters, the Director of the Domestic Policy Council, Neera Tanden, stressed the importance of the WIC program.

“The evidence is crystal clear. WIC means healthier babies who are more likely to survive infancy,” she said. “Down the line, those babies are more likely to receive medical care, and as toddlers and school children, children who are on WIC perform better on tests of mental development and reading. So really, this funding for WIC and fully-funding WIC is a no-brainer.”

USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small agrees.

“This is especially troubling because WIC serves nearly 40 percent of all infants in the United States,” she said. “We’ve seen that it drives down healthcare costs and increases preventative care. Studies show that WIC decreases infant deaths, premature births, and also reduces the risk of low birth weights. And in early childhood, WIC participation is also associated with higher test scores.”

If Congress fails to provide the additional funds, the program will see a $1 billion shortfall and about two million participants nationwide would have to leave the program by September. If Congress extends the current funding level rather than providing the additional funds needed, USDA could take measures to protect the program, however it would only be able to close about half of that $1 billion gap.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.