The following is a statement from Georgia Machell, Interim President & CEO of the National WIC Association, in response to the release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report “National- and State-Level Estimates of WIC Eligibility and WIC Program Reach in 2021”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – “In a time when maternal and infant mortality, child poverty, and household food insecurity are all rising substantially in the United States — and with WIC facing a funding shortfall and threats of deeper budget cuts — ensuring that anyone eligible for WIC can participate in the program should be a national priority.
“The National WIC Association deeply appreciates the efforts of our members in state and local WIC offices nationwide who assist residents of their communities each day. But they need help. Approximately six million women and children in the United States were eligible for but not participating in WIC last year. In 29 states, the WIC coverage rate was less than 50%. Coverage rates decline for children as they get older, reaching a nadir of only 25% of eligible 4-year-olds.
“These numbers are a clarion call for members of Congress to ensure WIC is fully funded now and in the future to meet its rising caseloads. Policymakers must also redouble efforts to drop barriers to enrollment. Flexibilities enacted during the pandemic — such as allowing certification over the phone or via videoconference, and picking up and reloading benefits through the mail or online — should be made permanent. And every participant should be able to use benefits online.
“Few programs can match WIC’s track record at improving the health and well-being of women and children, but WIC can only be effective if it’s accessible. WIC’s coverage rate should be 100%. Our efforts to reach that goal need additional funding and sustained commitment.”