In Major Bicameral Push, Shaheen Calls on Biden Admin to Review & Update Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, Children (WIC) Food PackagesMarch 19, 2021
**13,693 Granite State women, infants and children under five rely on the WIC program to stay healthy & get the nutrition they need**
**WIC is one of the most successful federally funded nutrition programs in the country**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a major bicameral push led by Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) with over 135 members of Congress, calling on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to review and increase the value of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food packages. Created in 1974, the WIC program has been one of the most successful federally funded nutrition programs in the country. However, despite the rising costs of food and the surge in Granite State families experiencing food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WIC food packages have not been revised since 2014.
13,693 Granite State women, infants and children rely on the WIC program to receive healthy, nutritious food products like milk, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and more.
The lawmakers highlighted the positive impact the WIC program has had for young children and mothers and underscored the benefits of updating the program’s food packages. “In Fiscal Year 2020 alone, the WIC program served 6.25 million women, infants, and children, with children being the largest benefactors from this program. We know this with certainty – healthier options in the WIC food packages have a demonstrated positive impact on health outcomes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that changes in the child food package, implemented in 2009, resulted in an overall reduction in childhood obesity prevalence among WIC-aged children… Enhancing the nutritional quality, variety, and value of the WIC food packages is an essential step in reaching all eligible families and continuing to leverage WIC’s effective nutrition support to improve health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum mothers, infants, and young children.”
Though WIC is a supplemental program, the rising cost of food has often meant that the value of the benefit is not enough to ensure families have access to nutritious foods, which are often higher-cost and out of reach for many low-income families. The lawmakers noted, “For example, children certified for WIC services receive only $2.25 per week for fruits and vegetables – hardly enough to ensure anywhere near the recommended daily nutrient intake. The average value of the food benefit per participant in Fiscal Year 2020 was only $38 per month, with an even lower value of $32 per month for children and $31 per month for postpartum, non-breastfeeding women. There is a 21 percent drop in the estimated share of eligible infants who remain on the program after their first birthday, with families repeatedly citing the small value of the food package as a barrier to ongoing participation.”
The lawmakers concluded, “With the Biden administration committed to updating and modernizing our federal feeding programs to best reflect a modern healthy diet, now is the time to review and update the WIC food packages and invest in higher value.”
The full text of the letter can be read here.
Senator Shaheen has fought to ensure vulnerable families are able to access the nutrition they need during this economic and public health crisis. The American Rescue Plan that Shaheen supported provides $490 million to increase the amount of the cash-value voucher provided under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is used to purchase fruits and vegetables, to as much as $35 during the pandemic. This voucher was previously just $9-11. The increased authority for both states and the department ends on Sept. 30, and participating states can apply the increase for as long as four months after opting in. The American Rescue Plan also provides an additional $390 million to increase participation in WIC through outreach and program modernization. Previously, Shaheen successfully led bipartisan negotiations to provide $13 billion in nutrition assistance in the emergency COVID relief legislation that was passed by Congress and signed into law in December. This assistance included a 15 percent increase to individual SNAP benefits for six months, more than $1 billion in emergency funding for school and child care meal providers, an expansion of the Pandemic-EBT program to include families with young children, $400 million for food banks and $175 million for senior nutrition services, including Meals on Wheels. She has repeatedly led calls to strengthen nutrition assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last May, she urged the USDA to expand SNAP participants’ access to the SNAP Online Purchasing Pilot Program, and helped introduce legislation that would implement SNAP online purchasing.
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