Total participation in WIC increased in fiscal year 2022, first rise in more than a decade

Line chart showing monthly WIC participattion by group betwen fiscal years 1974 and 2022.

USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food packages, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals at no cost to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants younger than 1 year old, and children 1 to 5 years old who are at nutritional risk. More than half of WIC participants are children (54.8 percent), followed by infants (22.8 percent) and women (22.4 percent). Total participation in WIC increased for the first time in more than a decade in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Participation averaged 6.26 million people a month, up from 6.24 million a month in FY 2021. This was the first increase in overall participation since the record high 9.18 million in FY 2010 and resulted from increased numbers of women and children participants. Women participants increased by 1.5 percent in FY 2022 after declining for the previous 12 fiscal years, whereas infant participants continued to decline. Declines in the number of births in the United States, beginning in 2008, may be a factor in drops in infant participation. Child participation increased in FY 2022 for the second consecutive fiscal year. Administrative flexibilities put in place in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have helped support participation, especially among children. Starting in FY 2020 and continuing through FY 2022, USDA waivers temporarily allowed State agencies to conduct remote certifications for applicants and recertifications for WIC participants and to extend certification periods for certain WIC participants by up to 3 months. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Food and Nutrition Assistance Landscape: Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report, released June 21, 2023.

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