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USDA spending on food and nutrition assistance programs declined further in FY 2023

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Federal spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $166.4 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2023, down 13 percent from $191.1 billion in FY 2022 and 18 percent from the peak of $202.4 billion in FY 2021 when adjusted for inflation to 2023 dollars. In FY 2023, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spending fell 9 percent from the previous year’s inflation-adjusted amount to $112.8 billion despite an increase in participation and maximum benefit levels. This decline occurred because of the nationwide end of emergency allotments, which had temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits to at least the maximum for their household size beginning in March 2020. Spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $6.6 billion—an increase of 11 percent from inflation-adjusted spending in FY 2022—reflecting increases in program participation and food costs per participant. Combined spending on child nutrition programs totaled $26.9 billion in FY 2023, falling 24 percent from the inflation-adjusted total in the previous year. FY 2023 marked the first full fiscal year of child nutrition program operation after Federal waivers allowing schools to serve free meals to all students and raising Federal reimbursements for each free meal served expired at the end of June 2022. Combined spending on other programs fell in FY 2023 primarily because of lower spending on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) in its final year of operation. This chart is based on data available as of December 2023 and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Report, released June 2024.

Infant formula market was more concentrated before WIC rebate contracts for formula

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

State agencies that administer USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) use competitive, single-source contracts to reduce the cost of infant formula. These contracts provide significant discounts in the form of manufacturer rebates for each can of formula purchased through WIC. Infants who receive formula through WIC consume more than half of all infant formula in the United States. The manufacturer holding the WIC contract in a State sells the most infant formula in that State, including to consumers not participating in WIC. The infant formula market is highly concentrated. However, comparing market shares over time indicates that the market has become less concentrated. In 1987, the year of the first rebate contract and 2 years before Federal law required that WIC State agencies use cost containment systems, three manufacturers accounted for 99 percent of sales of infant formula in the United States. In 2022, three manufacturers accounted for 83 percent of sales of infant formula. In addition to WIC contracts with manufacturers, other factors influence infant formula market concentration, such as regulation of formula manufactured inside the United States and import restrictions on formula manufactured outside the United States. Entrances and exits of manufacturers and changes in their market shares over time suggest these factors impact firms differently. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2024 Edition, published in February 2024.

Manufacturer rebates to States for infant formula reduced WIC spending by about 23 percent from 1989 to 2022

Monday, March 18, 2024

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children younger than 5 years who are at nutritional risk. State agencies responsible for implementing WIC use cost-containment strategies to reduce program costs. The greatest savings come from strategies used to contain the costs of providing infant formula through the program. Since 1989, most WIC State agencies have used competitive bidding to award contracts to a single manufacturer to serve as the formula of first choice for infant participants in their State. In return, manufacturers offer WIC State agencies rebates for each unit of formula sold through the program. From 1989 to 2022, savings to WIC from the rebates totaled $71.9 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars), or 23 percent. Without the rebates, the Federal Government would have spent about $307.5 billion on the WIC program over that period. With the rebates, the Government spent $235.6 billion. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2024 Edition, published in February 2024.

Breastfeeding in WIC program increased following infant formula market disruptions in 2022

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The number of breastfed infants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) began to increase around the start of infant formula supply chain disruptions in 2022. In February 2022, a voluntary recall of some powder infant formulas and a temporary closure of a formula manufacturing facility compounded Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related supply chain issues that limited the supply of infant formula. National monthly WIC participation data provide insights into how caregivers of WIC-participating infants responded to these challenges. In March 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants decreased 5 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 4 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 5 percent compared with the same month in the previous year. By October 2022, the number of fully formula feeding infants had decreased 8 percent, while the number of partially breastfed infants increased 15 percent and the number of fully breastfed infants increased 29 percent from one year before. The increases in the numbers of breastfed infants continued in fiscal year 2023, remaining above previous year numbers through September. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service report The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2024 Edition, published in February 2024.

Breastfeeding initiation increased among WIC participants and WIC-eligible nonparticipants across racial and ethnic groups from 2009–17

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Breastfeeding is considered the best source of nutrition for infants and is therefore promoted by USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Initiation, one breastfeeding metric, refers to breastfeeding an infant shortly after birth, including at or before discharge from the hospital. From 2009 to 2017, rates of breastfeeding initiation increased among low-income women regardless of WIC participation status or race/ethnicity. Hispanic women had the highest rates of breastfeeding initiation throughout the study period. Non-Hispanic Black women had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation, but they experienced the largest gains (22.3 percent among WIC participants and 24.1 percent among WIC-eligible nonparticipants). Compared with WIC-eligible nonparticipants (80.1 percent), WIC participants (78.5 percent) continued to have lower rates of breastfeeding initiation overall, although the gap in initiation between WIC-eligible nonparticipants and WIC participants closed for some racial/ethnic groups. In 2009, Asian/Pacific Islander women had the largest gap in breastfeeding initiation by WIC status. By 2017, this gap had narrowed and reversed direction because of a greater increase in breastfeeding initiation among WIC participants (21.4 percent) compared with WIC-eligible nonparticipants (8.6 percent). This pattern also was observed for American Indian/Alaska Native women and for non-Hispanic White women. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article Rates of Breastfeeding Initiation Increased Among Low-Income Women, 2009–17; Racial and Ethnic Disparities Persist, released October 2023.

Total participation in WIC increased in fiscal year 2022, first rise in more than a decade

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants younger than 1 year old, and children 1 to 5 years old who are at nutritional risk. More than half of WIC participants are children (54.8 percent), followed by infants (22.8 percent) and women (22.4 percent). Total participation in WIC increased for the first time in more than a decade in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Participation averaged 6.26 million people a month, up from 6.24 million a month in FY 2021. This was the first increase in overall participation since the record high 9.18 million in FY 2010 and resulted from increased numbers of women and children participants. Women participants increased by 1.5 percent in FY 2022 after declining for the previous 12 fiscal years, whereas infant participants continued to decline. Declines in the number of births in the United States, beginning in 2008, may be a factor in drops in infant participation. Child participation increased in FY 2022 for the second consecutive fiscal year. Administrative flexibilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have helped support participation, especially among children. Starting in FY 2020 and continuing through FY 2022, USDA waivers temporarily allowed State agencies to conduct remote certifications for applicants and recertifications for WIC participants and to extend certification periods for certain WIC participants by up to 3 months. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, released June 21, 2023.

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs fell in FY 2022, but still higher than before pandemic

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) released “The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report” on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. The report examines program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest domestic food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal year 2022. An overview of the annual ERS report will be provided in a webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, June 21. To join or register, click here.

Federal spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $183.0 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2022, down 6 percent from the record-high spending of $194.7 billion in FY 2021, adjusted for inflation to 2022 dollars. Before adjusting for inflation, total FY 2021 spending was $183.3 billion. In FY 2022, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum allotment permanently increased after the Thrifty Food Plan was re-evaluated, and several States also ended SNAP emergency allotments, which temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits to at least the maximum for their household size. SNAP spending totaled $119.5 billion in FY 2022, 1 percent less than the inflation-adjusted record-high spending in FY 2021. Spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $5.7 billion—an increase of 7 percent from inflation-adjusted spending in FY 2021—reflecting an increase in program food costs per participant. Combined spending on child nutrition programs totaled $35.1 billion in FY 2022, increasing 19 percent from the inflation-adjusted total in the previous year. This increase was driven by a greater number of meals served through these programs in FY 2022 compared with FY 2021, as well as higher reimbursement rates for meals served. Combined spending on other programs fell in FY 2022 primarily because of lower spending on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the expiration of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program midway through FY 2021. This chart is based on data available as of January 2023 and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, released June 2023.

Child participation in WIC increased in 2021, first time in more than a decade

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. More than half of all WIC participants are children (54 percent) followed by infants (23 percent) and women (22 percent). WIC participation for the three groups combined has been declining for more than a decade. Participation averaged 6.2 million people per month in fiscal year (FY) 2021, nearly the same as the previous year, and 32 percent below the record high of 9.2 million in FY 2010. In FY 2021, participation by women decreased by 5 percent and infant participation decreased by 6 percent from the previous year. Declines in the number of births in the United States, which began in 2008, may be a factor in these participation declines. Child participation, on the other hand, reversed course in FY 2021, and increased by 5 percent from the previous year. This was the first increase in child participation in more than a decade. Administrative flexibilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have helped to support participation, especially among children. Beginning in FY 2020 and continuing through FY 2021, USDA waivers temporarily allowed State agencies to extend certification periods for certain WIC participants by up to 3 months and to conduct remote certifications for applicants and recertifications for WIC participants. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $182.5 billion in 2021

Thursday, June 23, 2022

USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) released “The Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report” on Wednesday, June 22. The report examines program trends and policy changes in USDA’s largest U.S. food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal year 2021. An overview of the annual ERS report will be provided in a webinar at 1 p.m. EDT, Thursday, June 23. To join or register, click here.

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 43 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2021 to an inflation-adjusted record high of $182.5 billion. This increase reflected the heightened need for food assistance during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the subsequent Federal response. In FY 2021, USDA expanded program benefits, approved waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of existing food and nutrition assistance programs, and continued to operate two temporary programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). P-EBT and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) experienced the largest increases in spending from FY 2020, 162 percent and 44 percent, respectively. These increases reflect P-EBT’s operation throughout all of FY 2021 (compared with only part of FY 2020) and the issuance of SNAP emergency allotments, which temporarily raised all recipients’ benefits up to or above the maximum benefit for their household size. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs (the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program) increased, as did spending on both the Food Box Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This chart is based on data available as of April 2022 that are subject to revision and a chart appearing in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Report, released June 22, 2022.

Infants in USDA’s WIC Program consumed an estimated 56 percent of U.S. infant formula in 2018

Monday, May 23, 2022

Disruptions to the U.S. infant formula market may impact participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) because many infants receive formula from the program. The share of formula in the United States that is consumed by WIC infants ages 0 to 12 months is estimated to have been about 56 percent in 2018 compared to 58 percent in 2005. Both estimates are derived from the numbers of WIC and non-WIC infants and the estimated shares of each group that consume formula. The estimates assume that all formula-fed infants consume the same amount of formula independently of WIC participation status, age, weight, and other factors. The information on breastfeeding and formula-feeding practices for WIC and non-WIC infants comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Immunization Survey, for which 2018 is the most current data publicly available. The numbers of WIC and non-WIC infants come from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Even though fewer than half of all infants in the United States participated in WIC in 2018, WIC infants are more likely to be formula-fed compared with non-WIC infants, resulting in an estimated 56 percent share of formula consumption in 2018. This chart updates information in the ERS report, Rising Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program: Recent Trends in Rebates and Wholesale Prices, February 2010.

Fiscal Year 2020 marks decade of declining participation in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. Fiscal year (FY) 2020 marked the 10th consecutive fiscal year WIC participation declined. On average, 6.2 million people a month participated in WIC in FY 2020, which ended September 30, 2020, a 2-percent drop from FY 2019 and a 32-percent drop from 2010. About half of all participants in FY 2020 were children 1 through 4 years of age, while women (23 percent) and infants (25 percent) made up the other half of participants. The reduction in participation was more pronounced for women and infants than for children. Participation fell 5 percent for women and 4 percent for infants from the previous fiscal year, whereas the number of children participating fell by 1 percent. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released in August 2021.

Participation by children in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) increased during FY 2020

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age who are at nutritional risk. Before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, most WIC services, including certification, recertification, and supplemental food package issuance, were provided in-person at WIC clinics. During the pandemic, USDA issued waivers that enabled WIC State agencies to provide various WIC services remotely to protect the health and safety of staff and participants through social distancing. For example, most WIC State agencies applied for and received USDA waivers to allow for remote certification and recertification of WIC recipients, which may have influenced WIC participation. During the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2020 (April through September 2020), average monthly participation rates for women and infants declined by about 42,000 women and 22,000 infants per month, while average monthly participation rates for children 1 to 4 years of age increased by about 200,000 children per month. Further, many State WIC agencies received waivers to allow for substitutions to items included in participants’ food packages to address pandemic-induced food shortages. Despite these allowances, USDA spending on WIC food package redemptions, referred to as WIC food costs, fell in the months following the onset of the pandemic. On average, monthly food costs in the second half of FY 2020 were about $20 million lower than food costs in the first half of FY 2020. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and appears in the October 2021 Amber Waves article, “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Transformed the U.S. Federal Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape”.

Pandemic response contributed to 32 percent increase in Federal food assistance spending in FY 2020

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Total spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs increased 32 percent from $92.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to $122.1 billion in FY 2020. The way spending was distributed reflects changes to the food assistance landscape in FY 2020 resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent economic downturn and Federal response. Spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased because of greater participation and additional benefit issuance, accounting for 65 percent of total spending. Combined spending on the four largest child nutrition programs fell in FY 2020, as did spending on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Together these programs accounted for 21 percent of total spending. As part of the Federal response to the pandemic, two new assistance programs were created: Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. In FY 2020, P-EBT benefits totaled $10.7 billion, and Food Box Program spending totaled $2.5 billion. Together, these two programs accounted for 11 percent of overall food and nutrition assistance spending. This chart is based on data available as of January 2021 that is subject to revision and on a chart in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2020 Annual Report, released August 24, 2021.

Federal spending on food assistance reached record high of $122.1 billion in 2020

Friday, April 23, 2021

Errata: On June 3, 2022, the text and chart notes were revised to correctly identify the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Spending on USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs jumped 30 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2020 to an inflation-adjusted record of $122.1 billion, abruptly reversing a six-year decline. This increase reflects the expanded need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent Federal response to meet that need. This response included USDA waivers allowing flexibility in the administration of the Department’s 15 existing food and nutrition assistance programs and the creation of two programs, Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program (Food Box Program). The rise in FY 2020 expenditures was driven by increased spending on these two new programs, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) expenditures remained relatively unchanged while pandemic-induced disruptions in the operation of schools, childcare centers and daycare homes led to declines in child nutrition spending. This chart is based on data available on the USDA, Economic Research Service’s (ERS) General Overview of Food Assistance and Nutrition Programs webpage, updated April 2021.

WIC specialized A50 stores most prevalent in California, Puerto Rico, Texas in 2018

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is USDA’s third-largest food assistance program. Most stores authorized to accept WIC food benefits are typical food retailers, for which WIC redemptions comprise a small share of total food sales. Only 10 of the 90 WIC State agencies in 2018 authorized “above-50-percent” (A50) stores, which derive more than 50 percent of their food sales from WIC redemptions. A50 stores can offer advantages for WIC participants over typical food retailers by making WIC-approved products easy to find and emphasizing convenient checkout with cashiers who are familiar with handling WIC transactions. In 2018, 973 A50 stores operated in the United States and U.S. territories. These stores represented 2.2 percent of stores that accept WIC benefits nationwide but accounted for 10.6 percent of national WIC redemptions. States and U.S. territories with relatively high numbers of A50 stores in 2018 included California (493 stores), Puerto Rico (276 stores), and Texas (103 stores). A50 stores accounted for 78.9 percent of Puerto Rico’s WIC redemptions in 2018, compared with 42.6 percent of WIC redemptions in California and 21.5 percent in Texas. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves article, “Specialized Stores Serving Participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Can Reduce Program Food Costs and Increase Food Store Access,” March 2021.

Travel distance to WIC stores would increase for WIC participants in Greater Los Angeles if A50 stores did not exist

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

States have substantial latitude in choosing the types of retailers authorized to accept food benefits from USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Almost all States authorize large retailers, while some authorize medium, small, and non-traditional food retailers, such as convenience stores and pharmacies. A handful of States, including California, authorize “above-50-percent” (A50) stores, which derive more than 50 percent of their food sales from WIC redemptions. A50 stores can offer advantages for WIC participants over traditional food retailers by making WIC-approved products easy to find and employing cashiers who are familiar with handling WIC transactions. ERS researchers and collaborators used WIC transaction data for the Greater Los Angeles area during 2009-2012 to address a hypothetical question: If California had not authorized A50 stores, what would have been participants’ travel distances to the nearest WIC-approved store? Without A50 stores in Greater Los Angeles, researchers estimated that 74.8 percent of WIC participants would have traveled farther to buy food at other stores, with 23.7 percent traveling an additional 1 to 2 miles and 20.7 percent traveling an additional 2 or more miles. A version of this chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, Cost Containment and Participant Access in USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): Evidence from the Greater Los Angeles, CA, Area, February 2021.

WIC participation fell by 30 percent between fiscal years 2010 and 2019

Friday, November 6, 2020

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) helps to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing supplemental foods, nutrition education, and health care referrals at no cost to participants. On average, 6.4 million people per month participated in the program in fiscal year 2019, 7 percent fewer than in the previous fiscal year and a 30-percent drop from the program’s historical high of 9.2 million participants in fiscal year 2010. The number of WIC participants in each category—women, infants, and children—fell by 6-7 percent between fiscal years 2018 and 2019. This marked the ninth year in the program’s history that participation for all three groups fell. Declining U.S. births and improving economic conditions have likely played a role in the falling WIC caseloads. In fiscal year 2019, children 1-4 years of age made up 51 percent of all participants, while infants constituted 25 percent and women constituted 24 percent. The data in this chart pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on WIC participation. This chart appears in the Economic Research Service publication, The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report, July 2020.

Federal spending on food assistance in fiscal year (FY) 2019 at lowest level since FY 2009

Friday, August 21, 2020

USDA administers 15 domestic food and nutrition assistance programs that together form a nutritional safety net for millions of children and low-income adults. Federal expenditures on these programs totaled $92.4 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019, their lowest level since FY 2009 and 22 percent less than the inflation-adjusted historical high of $117.9 billion set in FY 2013. The decline in spending between 2013 and 2019 was likely largely due to continued improvement in the U.S. economy, as the unemployment rate declined from 7.4 to 3.7 percent over that time period. Spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which accounted for almost two-thirds (65.3 percent) of Federal food and nutrition assistance spending in FY 2019, totaled $60.4 billion, or 8 percent less than in FY 2018 and 30 percent less than the inflation-adjusted historical high of $86.3 billion set in FY 2013. Expenditures fell for both SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) between FYs 2018 and 2019, but increased between 2 and 3 percent for each of the three largest child nutrition programs—the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. A version of this chart appears in the Economic Research Service report, The Food Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report, July 2020.

WIC households acquire more whole grains from bread items than eligible households not participating in WIC

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

In 2009, USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) added whole-grain bread and other whole-grain options, such as brown rice and whole-grain tortillas, to its supplemental food packages for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children ages 1 through 4 years old. Most Americans underconsume whole grains relative to Federal dietary recommendations. ERS researchers used USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) to compare the amounts of whole and refined grains acquired from bread by WIC and eligible non-WIC households. During the FoodAPS survey week, WIC households acquired about the same amount of total grains from bread as eligible non-participants. However, they bought more whole grain bread. WIC households acquired 1.33 ounce-equivalents of whole grains from bread per member, on average, versus 0.72 ounce-equivalents for eligible non-WIC households. This difference can be attributed to purchases of whole grain bread made with WIC benefits. This chart appears in the ERS report, USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): A New Look at Key Questions 10 Years After USDA Added Whole-Grain Bread to WIC Food Packages in 2009, August 2019.

ICYMI... Higher breastfeeding rates among WIC participants would yield health-related cost savings

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) encourages and supports breastfeeding among postpartum women participating in the program. Studies have found that breastfeeding confers a number of health benefits to both infant and mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age as complementary foods are introduced. A recent ERS study estimated the potential cost savings to WIC households and/or their private and government health insurance providers if 90 percent of WIC infants in 2016 had been breastfed for 12 months (first 6 months exclusively). Cost savings were calculated based on estimated reductions in nine pediatric and five maternal diseases. ERS researchers found the estimated cost savings would total $9.1 billion. Three-quarters of the savings, $6.9 billion, is derived from reductions in early deaths of mothers and infants. Medical costs, including physician fees and hospital costs, account for $1.5 billion of the savings, and nonmedical costs, such as lost wages from missed work days due to maternal illness or caring for a sick infant, account for another $0.6 billion. The data for this chart appear in “Economic Implications of Increased Breastfeeding Rates in WIC” from ERS’s Amber Waves magazine, February 2019. This Chart of Note was originally published March 15, 2019.