National WIC Association

In Defense of WIC: The WIC Program's Formula Rebate Program Saves Money for the WIC Program

March 16, 2017

You may encounter the following criticism of WIC: WIC participants purchase over half of the formula sold in the U.S. which means formula companies make a lot of money off of the program. Here are some suggestions for how to respond if and when you encounter this claim:

Sample Talking Points:

  • Formula manufacturers provide a discount to WIC through the infant formula rebate program.
  • WIC’s infant formula bidding process is the most prominent cost containment measure and is highly cost effective1
    • State WIC programs receive substantial discounts in the form of rebates from formula manufacturers.
    • Infant formula rebates generate between $1.5 billion and $2 billion a year in savings. This allows WIC to serve 2 million more participants each year.
    • Without competitive bidding, WIC would either need a much larger appropriation or would serve substantially fewer women, infants, and young children at nutritional risk.
  • In FY2014, the WIC infant formula manufacturers’ rebate program generated $1.9 billion dollars of non-taxpayer funds that supported the program, just over 1 in 4 WIC participants.2
  • WIC doesn’t just save money through cost containment but it brings money into local communities.
    • There are over 47,000 authorized WIC retailers in the US, from small corner stores to big box stores.3
    • In fiscal year 2013, $6.3 billion of WIC food benefits were spent in local communities across the country, but only $4.4 billion of those dollars were provided by the government.
  • WIC supports American farmers – over $15 million per year is spent at farmers’ markets through WIC’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).
  • WIC is highly efficient. Nationwide, less than 8% of WIC’s budget is spent on administrative costs.4

Peer-Reviewed Literature to Corroborate these Points:

1 Steven Carlson, Robert Greenstein, Zoe Neuberger (2015). “WIC’s Competitive Bidding Process for Infant Formula is Highly Cost-Effective.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. http://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/wics-competitive-bidding-process-for-infant-formula-is-highly-cost

2 Ibid.

3 United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (2016) WIC Program Data. Accessed online: https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/wic-program

4 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (2015) WIC Combined Federal and State WIC NSA Outlays and In-Kind Report FY2015 (FNS-798A).

WIC Testimonial Refuting this Claim:

“WIC is vital for my daughter. With a special needs kid, I would never be able to afford her formula. WIC is the reason my daughter is alive. And they are very helpful with support." --WIC Participant, Oregon

“The support is great!! I have a special needs infant that takes medical formula – do you know how much that stuff costs? WIC places a special order for me and it comes to my house. There is no way I could afford the special formula. Thank God for WIC!!!!” --WIC Participant, Hermiston, Oregon

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