National WIC Association

In Defense of WIC: WIC’s Targeted Food Packages DO Improve Health Outcomes

February 1, 2017

You may encounter the following criticism of WIC: WIC food package restrictions do not lead to better health, and the program’s nutritional and health benefits are hard to prove. Here are some suggestions for how to respond if and when you encounter this claim:

Sample Talking Points:

  • WIC is a cost-effective investment improving the nutrition and health of low-income families.1
  • Participation in WIC leads to healthier infants, more nutritious diets, and better healthcare for children.
  • The WIC food package is tailored to the dietary needs of the participant.
  • The WIC food package is based on the most recent available scientific evidence.
  • The WIC food package undergoes a rigorous scientific evaluation by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine every 10 years.
  • WIC’s nutrition education is grounded in solid dietary guidance such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • WIC nutrition education has shown to help increase the consumption of healthful foods.2
  • The WIC program employs Registered Dietitians, nutritionists, and other nutrition-related professionals to provide solid nutrition education to participants.
  • WIC reduces the likelihood of adverse birth outcomes, including very low birth-weight babies.3


Peer-Reviewed Literature to Corroborate these Points:

1 Steven Carlson, Zoe Neuberger (2015). “WIC Works: Addressing the Nutrition and Health Needs of Low-Income Families for 40 Years.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

2 Lorrene D. Ritchie, Shannon E. Whaley, Phil Spector, Judy Gomez, Patricia Crawford (2010) Favorable Impact of Nutrition Education on California WIC Families. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior Vol.43 Issue 3. Supplement, Pages S2-S10.)

3 Hilary H, Page M, Huff Stevens A. (2011). “Can targeted transfers improve birth outcomes? Evidence from the introduction of the WIC program.” Journal of Public Economics 95, 813–827.; Figlio D, Hamersma S, Rith J. (2009). “Does prenatal WIC participation improve birth outcomes? New evidence from Florida.” Journal of Public Economics, 93(1–2), 235–245.; Gueorguieva, R. Morse, S.B., Roth, J. (2009). “Length of prenatal participation in WIC and risk of delivering a small for gestational age infant: Florida, 1996–2004.” Journal of Maternal Child Health, 13(4), 479–88.

WIC Testimonial Refuting this Claim:

"I started the WIC program when my husband and I got pregnant with our daughter in the spring of 2007. During that time, I was also in my senior year at the University of Montana. We were both working but still living paycheck-to-paycheck. WIC was so helpful, with the monthly nutrition supplementation and nutrition information I was able to learn, during my pregnancy and through my child’s first years of life. By the time I delivered my darling daughter in the late fall of 2007, I had obtained full-time work in a field that my degree was in and was still within the WIC income guidelines. All of the breastfeeding support during this time was crucial to my success of nursing my daughter until well after her first birthday. I was even able to get an electric breast pump, which I used every day as a full-time working mom."

"When my daughter was three, we were finally making enough money that we were not eligible for the WIC program. At the start of this summer, however, surprisingly my husband lost his job that he had been doing for two years. So, we again qualify for the WIC program. Although she will be five in November, I feel like we’ve learned so much about nutrition over the years and the supplement food every month and the additional farmers’ market coupons in the summer are an important component to our household." --WIC Participant, Missoula, Montana