The League of Women Voters of the United States joined a sign-on letter urging the congressional appropriations committees to allot sufficient funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a Continuing Resolution and FY24 Appropriations.
The Honorable Patty Murray
The Honorable Kay Granger
U.S. House of Representatives
The Honorable Susan Collins
The Honorable Rosa De Lauro
U.S. House of Representatives
Re: Participation Estimates, The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Dear Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, Chair Granger, and Ranking Member DeLauro,
Since 1974, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has strengthened food security, improved diet quality, and supported a strong start in life for America’s youth. Recent data show WIC participation exceeding previous projections as more families are accessing WIC’s vital nutrition services. In recognition of WIC’s health benefits and increasing participation, the more than 600 undersigned national, state, and local organizations representing maternal and child health organizations, family support advocates, and research partners respectfully urge Congress to include sufficient resources in a short-term Continuing Resolution to ensure that WIC can continue providing all eligible women, infants, and children who seek to participate with the full, science-based nutrition benefit. We also call on Congress to fully fund WIC for fiscal year 2024 to sustain current benefits and increasing participation.
WIC Improves Participants’ Health
WIC has a proven track record of reducing hunger, improving diet quality, and preventing disease. WIC participants are four times more likely to be food secure than eligible non-participants; enrollment during pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of household food insecurity after birth. When introduced in 2009, WIC’s fruit and vegetable cash value benefit (CVB) increased fresh fruit consumption by 28.6 percent, frozen vegetable consumption by 27.8 percent, and fresh vegetable consumption by 17.5 percent. The CVB bump passed by Congress in 2021 and extended on a bipartisan basis in subsequent appropriations legislation further increased fruit and vegetable consumption by an average of ¼ cup per day. WIC alleviates food insecurity and nutrition insecurity significantly, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease of all participants and supports brain development and immunization rates in young children. Additional Resources Needed to Ensure Continuation of Benefits The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) previously estimated that 6.5 million people would participate in WIC during fiscal year 2024. However, recently released data show that participation exceeded 6.7 million individuals in June 2023, with participation expected to continue to increase. Growing participation reflects WIC’s reduction of administrative barriers through modernization efforts and flexibility, the efficacy of the fruit and vegetable benefit, as well as rising food costs.
If WIC does not receive the necessary investment for FY24, hundreds of thousands of postpartum women and children will be turned away from the program. Moreover, a lack of additional resources could further lead states to take measures to bring spending in line with available funds, such as scaling back outreach efforts, reducing clinic staff, shortening clinic hours, or even turning away eligible applicants.
WIC Must Be Fully Funded to Meet Participation
Beyond the provision of additional resources, we urge Congress, as it works to complete appropriations bills for the 2024 fiscal year, to maintain nearly thirty years of precedent by keeping WIC fully funded for all eligible women, infants, and children who seek benefits. Unfortunately, the proposed appropriations for WIC in the Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration appropriations legislation would leave many WIC participants with limited or no benefits, leading to a waitlist for the first time in decades.
The proposed $6.3 billion funding level for WIC in the Senate Agriculture appropriations bill (S. 2131), would require states to turn away an estimated 600,000 postpartum women and children. Failure to provide WIC with the resources to serve projected caseloads jeopardizes the health and well-being of thousands of mothers and young children.
The House Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 4368) funds WIC at $6 billion, with a $500 million rescission. This bill, if enacted, would not only result in eligible applicants getting turned away but also reduces benefits. Specifically, 600,000 participants would be turned away and the current allocation of the CVB would be cut by 56 to 70 percent, reducing fruit and vegetable availability and consumption for another 4.7 million participants.
For nearly 30 years, there has been a bipartisan agreement in Congress to provide WIC with the resources necessary to serve every eligible woman, infant, and child. We strongly urge lawmakers to honor this commitment, providing an urgently needed investment in a Continuing Resolution and fully funding WIC in the FY24 Appropriations law, so that no woman or child is turned away from the program and no participant has their benefits cut. We urge both the House and Senate to continue their bipartisan support for full funding of WIC so that mothers and their young children can lead a food and nutrition secure healthy life.
See Attached Letter for Signatories