Mother feeding her child

Tesha Kelley of Lindale, Texas, feeds her 10-month-old daughter during the Nutrition Carnival at the NET Health WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) Department in Tyler, Texas.

(Photo: AP/The Tyler Morning Telegraph, Sarah A. Miller)

GOP Threaten to Rip Nutrition Benefits From Over 5 Million of Nation's Poor Children and Parents

With time running out, Congress must ensure that the final appropriations bill fully funds WIC to avoid eligible families losing access to the program’s critical benefits.

Funding in fiscal year 2024 Senate and House appropriations bills for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) falls far short of what is needed to provide all eligible families who apply with the full nutrition assistance benefit. Across the states, these proposed funding levels would result in WIC turning away 600,000 eligible new parents and young children, and the House bill would sharply cut benefits for another 4.7 million. (See table below for state-by-state estimates.) Congress must ensure that the final appropriations bill fully funds WIC to avoid eligible families losing access to the program’s critical benefits.

WIC provides critical nutrition benefits, breastfeeding support, and other vital services to low-income pregnant and postpartum people, infants, and young children under age 5 who are at nutritional risk. In recognition of WIC’s positive impacts on health and developmental outcomes, policymakers have adhered to a bipartisan commitment for more than 25 years to provide the program sufficient funding to serve all eligible applicants.

Yet without substantial funding above the Senate bill level, we estimate that 600,000 eligible people nationwide — primarily toddlers, preschoolers, and postpartum adults — would be turned away from WIC, as we explained yesterday.

The funding bill proposed by House Republicans is far worse. In total, it would cut WIC benefits for, or take them away altogether from, roughly 5.3 million people with low incomes. Not only would it also result in roughly 600,000 eligible people nationwide being turned away from WIC, but it would weaken the program’s science-based benefits by sharply reducing the fruit and vegetable benefit that was increased two years ago on the recommendation of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

As a result, an additional 4.7 million toddlers and preschoolers and pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding participants would be left with only $11 to $15 per month to purchase healthy produce, depending on the participant category — representing a 56 to 70 percent cut compared to current levels.

The table soon on this page illustrates how many people in each state could be turned away from WIC, or have their benefits slashed, without funding above what the Senate and House bills would provide. It is critical that Congress include in the final funding law the amount needed for WIC to provide current food benefits to all eligible families who apply or need to renew, so states won’t have to turn away eligible new parents or toddlers during critical periods of development.

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