WIC Needs Immediate Funding to Protect the Health and Well-Being of Children

This is an update to our blog from November 2, 2023. To read the original, click here.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a vital program that supports the health and well-being of pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children. WIC helps families with food purchasing, nutrition counseling, health care referrals, and breastfeeding support to promote the healthy development and growth of children and moms.  In 2022 alone, WIC served over 6 million participants nationwide. Half of all infants nationwide qualify for the program.    

But this critically important program is at risk. Right now, since Congress has failed to pass any spending bills, WIC faces a shortfall. Without additional funding for this fiscal year, WIC will have to turn away eligible young children and pregnant and postpartum women from the program.  Counter to the intent of the program to meet the immediate need at a key point of development and growth, eligible children and women will be put on a waiting list.   It would be the first time in 25 years that WIC would have waiting lists.   

Without additional funding, WIC will face a $1 billion shortfall due to increased participation and growing food costs. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that by September states would have to turn away 2 million young children and woman.  

To avert this crisis Congress must act now to fully fund WIC for the current fiscal year, ensuring WIC has the funding required to provide young children, pregnant, and post-partum women the medical and nutrition resources they need.  

 The chart below, with information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, shows the estimated impact of the WIC funding shortfall in the 4 active Children’s HealthWatch locations. You can see this information for every state on their website.   

Children’s HealthWatch States   Eligible People Turned Away in September 2024 
AR   19,000 
MA   37,000 
MN   32,000 
PA   51,000 

 Children’s HealthWatch was founded to be an evidence-based advocate for young children. Over 25 years of research has shown the incredible impact WIC has on the health and well-being of kids and families. Our findings include:  

Research from others shows that participation in WIC is associated with lower infant mortality rates, especially among Black mothers and children. According to a recent report the national infant mortality rate increased 3% from 2021-2022, the first increase in two decades. In a country with vast resources we should not have an infant mortality rate that puts us on par with the lowest income countries in the world.     

Congress must consider the impact of delaying or failing to act to protect WIC. The most recent food insecurity data from the United State Department of Agriculture shows a drastic increase in child food insecurity. Also, just earlier this year we saw child poverty rates double in analyses from the U. S. Census Supplemental Poverty Measure report. Failing to fully fund critically important programs like WIC will only exacerbate this problem, leading not only to a detrimental effect on children’s health and cognitive, motor, and socioemotional development but also increased costs for health care and education systems down the road. It is estimated that every $1 spent on WIC saves $2.48 in health care costs. An investment in WIC today will help secure the future for hundreds of thousands of children and mothers.   

If you would like to take action or share our research, please see options below from our friends and colleagues:  

Now is the time to take action to protect WIC.  We hope you will join Children’s HealthWatch in urging Congress to fully fund this vital program.