WIC participation continues to fall

This chart shows the average monthly WIC participation, fiscal years 1974 to 2018.

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and health care referrals to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. An average 6.9 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal 2018, a 6-percent decrease from 2017. This marked the largest single-year decrease in the program’s history. For the 8th consecutive fiscal year, participation for each of the three major WIC-participant groups—women, infants, and children—fell by 4–6 percent. Improving economic conditions in recent years have likely played a role in the participation decline. Because applicants must have incomes at or below 185 percent of poverty or participate in certain other assistance programs to be eligible, the number of people eligible for WIC is closely linked to the health of the U.S. economy. Falling WIC caseloads may also reflect the decline in the number of U.S. births. During 2008–17, the number of births fell by an average of 1.4 percent per year (except in 2014, when the number of births rose by 1.4 percent). This chart appears in the ERS report, The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2018 Annual Report, April 2019.

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