National WIC Association

Understanding Changes in WIC Caseload to Target WIC Services to the Most At-Risk Families

When low-income families receive the full value of WIC throughout the period of WIC eligibility from pregnancy to age 5, they have the maximum opportunity to benefit from the supplemental foods, the developmentally-appropriate nutrition education and breastfeeding support, and the referrals to resources that support their family’s health and well-being. A key observation in recent years has been a change in patterns of WIC participation. Specifically, there has been a decline in the number of pregnant women and children participating in WIC.

While declining birth rates have contributed to fewer individuals being eligible for WIC, other factors are thought to be responsible. There are currently research projects in the field, led by local and state WIC agencies, non-profit organizations, academic researchers, and contractors that seek to understand why participation has been decreasing and what can be done to ensure eligible families enroll and stay on the program.

Responses from local and state WIC agencies to WIC caseload and coverage decreases have focused on raising the general awareness of WIC and the promotion of WIC services, program innovations, and increasing program flexibility. Research is needed to consider which responses to caseload declines support the most vulnerable WIC-eligible families to participate and benefit from the services WIC provides.