Half of mothers infants and children eligible for WIC food subsidies not receiving them, USDA says

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The USDA has found about six million Americans are not receiving food subsidies they are eligible for.

Key nutrients for women infants and children, known as WIC, are not making it to family tables.

The WIC program tries to supplement a healthy diet for low income breastfeeding mothers and infants, but only half of those eligible for benefits are actually receiving them.

“Connecting eligible families to wics benefits is one of our top priorities,” USDA Food Nutrition Deputy Under Secretary Stacy Dean said. “It is an incredible public health intervention, and we’ve got too many families missing out.”

The Agriculture Department said 80 percent of eligible pregnant mothers and infants are receiving WIC benefits from the grocery store.

Children can continue receiving healthy foods until age five, but the USDA said that’s where families are falling off.

“We’re really looking at, how do we hold on to those participants,” Dean said. “What kinds of conveniences or improvements, tweaks do we need to make to the program to make sure that we’re serving all of our eligible children.”

The National WIC Association said keeping children on the program longer can help curb childhood obesity, and part of their solution is increasing public knowledge of the program.

“The National WIC association has been leading a national recruitment and retention campaign for the last six years to try and address some of these barriers,” said National WIC Association Director of Public Policy Brian Dittmeier.

The USDA says they are making packages more enticing, like offering bagels as whole grain options, and switching some of the milk benefits to yogurt.

“Changing the food package to be more responsive and adaptive to what families want is one of the more important changes we’re hoping will impact participation,” Dean said.

USDA plans to have the new food package in place during 2024.