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Publication Date

May 1, 2017



Review of WIC Food Packages: Improving Balance and Choice: Final Report

By National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine


Among the nutrition assistance programs available to low-income families, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is the only one that specifically targets the nutritional needs of pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women; infants; and children less than 5 years of age. WIC also includes nutritional assessment, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and referrals to health and social services, in addition to a prescribed food package. WIC participation has grown from 88,000 individuals served in 1974 to approximately 8 million women, infants, and children served in 2015 with services provided through 1,900 local agencies operating in 10,000 clinic sites across the United States and its territories.

The program’s goals have evolved to include promoting and supporting breastfeeding by providing the breastfeeding mother with benefits for up to 1 year; providing WIC participants with a wider variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; and providing WIC state agencies greater flexibility in prescribing food packages to accommodate the food preferences of WIC participants. WIC, like some other nutrition assistance programs, has been aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Additionally, the program goals align with two major Healthy People 2020 goals and nearly 30 health objectives, specifically those related to birth weight, childhood and adult weight, and breastfeeding prevalence. Congress has now mandated that an evaluation of the WIC food packages occur every 10 years.

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Date Added
November 10, 2017

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review WIC Food Packages. (2017) Review of WIC Food Packages: Improving Balance and Choice: Final Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); Summary. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK435895/