WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National WIC Association (NWA), a leading advocate for the health and nutritional needs of women, infants and children, strongly admonishes the House of Representatives for unveiling a fiscal year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill that, if passed, would significantly undermine the vital support provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The proposed bill, which allocates $6 billion in funding, a staggering $800 million less than President Biden's proposed budget, demonstrates a disregard for the health and well-being of our nation’s women and children. Most notably, the cuts would gut fruit and vegetable benefits by nearly 62%, dramatically decreasing access to nutritious foods for nearly five million women and kids enrolled in the program.
The following statement is attributed to Dr. Jamila Taylor, President & CEO of the National WIC Association:
“The heart of WIC lies in its ability to ensure adequate nutrition for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants and young children. By providing a comprehensive food package, WIC plays a crucial role in safeguarding the health and well-being of millions of Americans. However, this bill’s drastic cuts and rescissions would leave these vulnerable populations without sufficient resources to meet their nutritional needs – quite literally taking food off of kids’ plates.
“Currently, the WIC program provides children with a cash value benefit (CVB) of $25 for fruits and vegetables, which is essential for nourishing their growing bodies and promoting healthy development. If this budget bill is passed, this amount would be reduced to a meager $11, depriving children of the support they deserve. Furthermore, pregnant and postpartum women would see their benefits reduced from $44 to a mere $13, while breastfeeding women would face a reduction from $49 to just $15. Such severe cuts put the health of mothers and their infants at great risk and jeopardize their long-term well-being.
“With food inflation on the rise, it is unacceptable to think that nearly five million women and kids would be denied access to purchase a full spectrum of fruits and vegetables - this is especially concerning when you consider that CVB is the most redeemed food group for this demographic in the program. Similarly, this 62% benefit reduction would also have a startling financial impact on the farmers and retailers that supply these nutritious foods to participants. These harsh cuts to essential food assistance for vulnerable populations are the clear consequence of an ill-advised approach to adhering to arbitrary caps on overall federal spending, which ignore the clear and growing need faced by not just WIC but other federal programs aimed at supporting families in need.
“In addition to these distressing reductions in benefits, the inclusion of an unfunded dairy rider in the proposed budget bill is deeply concerning. This rider not only undermines the science-based process behind the formulation of the food package rule but also dismantles the progress made in ensuring the nutritional adequacy of WIC benefits. Similarly, this unfunded rider would jeopardize access to other scientifically recommended foods, amounting to another benefit cut for children and women participating in the program. This bill's funding cuts are also paired with a cruel attempt to impose time limits on SNAP participation for certain adults, threatening to push more people into poverty and leave more households without access to the food they need.
“NWA urges members of the House of Representatives to reconsider this ill-conceived bill and to prioritize the health and wellness of vulnerable populations. We call on lawmakers to provide the $6.3 billion in funding needed to serve WIC’s projected increased caseload with the fruit and vegetable benefit left intact, ensuring that the most vulnerable among us are not left without the critical support they rely on.
“Contrary to congressional language supporting the bill, providing families with health care and nutritious food does not constitute ‘wasteful spending.’ We encourage members with this misinformed opinion to visit a local WIC clinic in their district to understand the full impact that the program has on eliminating already-existing challenges faced by low-income families.
“Simply put, the nutrition and future well-being of our nation's mothers, infants and children should never be compromised. We implore the House of Representatives to reject this bill and to stand firmly in support of WIC, upholding the values of compassion, equality and justice that define our great nation.”