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Positive Trends in the WIC Program

Posted by Janna Raudenbush, Public Affairs Specialist, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition USDA Results
Mar 22, 2016
New moms participating in a group discussion with a WIC counselor
New moms participating in a group discussion with a WIC counselor.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Here at WIC, we’re pretty excited!  During National WIC Breastfeeding Week, we blogged about all of our ongoing efforts to help promote healthy mothers and babies.  One of our focus areas is promoting breastfeeding as the optimal infant feeding choice for moms who are medically able, for its many proven health, nutritional, economical, and emotional benefits for both mother and baby.

Well a recent report from the Food and Nutrition Service shows these efforts – and all of the hard work of WIC agencies and mothers nationwide – are paying off.  The report, WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2014, provides a snapshot of WIC participant demographics from April 2014 and is the most recent in a series of reports produced every two years since 1992.  According to the report, breastfeeding is on the rise among WIC participants, with the proportion of breastfeeding postpartum mothers exceeding that of non-breastfeeding postpartum mothers, continuing the trend first exhibited in 2012. Additionally, data collected from 83 WIC state agencies shows 69.8 percent of all 6- to 13-month-old infants and children participating in WIC are currently or were previously breastfed, an increase from 67.1 percent in 2012.

The report also contains more good news: Obesity rates among children participating in WIC have continued to decline.  The number of 1-year-olds in WIC who are at or above the 97th percentile for their weight as compared to length decreased from 12 percent in 2010 to 10.2 percent in 2014.  Similarly, the proportion of children ages 2-4 who are considered obese decreased from 14.6 percent in 2010 to 13.7 percent in 2014.

It’s clear that participating in WIC has positive health benefits for both mom and child.  But one more thing the report showed us is that participation is dropping as the child gets older.  Children may be eligible to participate in WIC from birth until the age of five, yet the report indicates that 23 percent of all WIC participants are under the age of one, while only 7.6 percent of children are four years old.

We want all eligible mothers and moms-to-be to know that their children can continue receiving benefits such as healthy food packages and health screening until their fifth birthday. With our WIC Works Resource System, moms and clinics can help us spread the word about the benefits of participating in WIC:  Stick with WIC, and set your child up for success!

To learn more about WIC, visit our WIC webpage.  To see if you and/or your child are eligible for WIC, check out our Prescreening Tool.  For more on breastfeeding and information on how to support a breastfeeding mom or receive support if you are breastfeeding, visit our Loving Support page.