The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves millions of low-income women, infants, and children who are at nutritional risk by providing checks or vouchers for nutritious foods, nutrition counseling, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals. Foods eligible for WIC are high in certain nutrients and designed to meet the special nutritional needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, or postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5.
Research has shown that WIC is a successful and cost-effective program. Numerous studies find that WIC participation improves pre- and postnatal health outcomes; families' overall nutrition; access to prenatal care, health care for children, and immunizations; and children's cognitive development and academic achievement.
In 2015, the average monthly WIC benefit was $43.58 per person. Easing the costs associated with buying nutritional foods frees up family resources for other necessities, like housing and medical costs. Families with pre-tax incomes up to 185 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible for the program. WIC benefits are especially important for rural families, as the poverty rate is higher in rural than in urban areas (18 percent compared with 15 percent in 2014). It is important to consider uptake differences by place type as research indicates that rural women perceive more stigma surrounding participation in government assistance programs compared with women in urban areas.