National WIC Association

In Defense of WIC: The WIC Food Package is Prescriptive and Specific to the Needs of the Participant

February 15, 2017

You may encounter the following criticism of WIC: The WIC food package is too restrictive and should be more like SNAP. Here are some suggestions for how to respond if and when you encounter this claim:

Sample Talking Points:

  • WIC participants are at nutrition risk; the WIC food package is tailored to the nutritional needs of the participant.
  • The WIC food package provides the specific target nutrients most important to the participant’s life stage
  • A pregnant woman, postpartum mom, breastfed infant, formula-fed infant, or a young child, receives different foods tailored to meet their nutritional needs.
  • The WIC food package offers flexibility to accommodate the cultural, religious, medical and other needs of the participant.
  • The WIC food package promotes the consumption of healthy foods among WIC participants.
  • Changes to the WIC food package helped children score higher on the Healthy Eating Index.1
  • Since the food package updates, WIC families’ food purchasing habits have become healthier.2
  • Households enrolled in WIC tend to purchase more wholegrain breads and brown rice.3
  • The food package was last updated in 2009 after an independent scientific review in 2006. Since that update, a growing body of literature has emerged that demonstrates the positive impact WIC foods have on the families we serve.4 5 6 7 8
  • The food package is meant to be supplemental and fill in nutritional gaps, it is not meant to supply all of the caloric needs for the participant.

Peer-Reviewed Literature to Corroborate these Points:

1 Tester J, Leung C, Crawford P (2016) Revised WIC Food Package and Children’s Diet Quality. Pediatrics. April 2016.

2 Andreyeva T, Tipp A (2016) The healthfulness of food and beverage purchases after the federal food package revisions: The case of two New England states. Preventive Medicine Vol.91.

3 Andreyeva, T, Luedicke J (2013) Federal Food Package Revisions Effects on Purchases of Whole Grain Products. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 45 (4): 422-429.

4 Andreyeva T, et al. (2012) Positive influence of the revised Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children food packages on access to healthy foods. J Acad Nutr Diet. Jun Vol. 112 Issue. 6:850-858.

5 Hillier A, et al. (2012) The impact of WIC food package changes on access to healthful food in two low income urban neighborhoods. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Vol.44(3):210-216.

6 Chiasson MA, et al. (2013) Changing WIC changes what children eat. Obesity. Vol. 21 Issue.7 1423 1429.

7 Whaley S, et al. (2012) Revised WIC food package improves diets of WIC families. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Vol. 44 Issue 3:204-209.

8 Havens EK, et al. (2012) Federal nutrition program changes and healthy food availability. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Vol.43 Issue 4:419-422.

WIC Testimonial Refuting this Claim:

"My husband lost his job and has had his salary cut at his new job so our budget is limited. Through our monthly vouchers I am able to supplement our grocery budget, buy fruits/veggies that would otherwise be over our budget, and provide my family w/much needed staple items. We also receive knowledge and support about any feeding issues that may arise. WIC services have been an answer to prayer and a much appreciated financial support during out time of need." --WIC Participant, Tennessee