Three-quarters of WIC benefits are redeemed in large stores

Three-quarters of WIC benefits are redeemed in large stores

In fiscal 2015, expenditures for USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) totaled $6.2 billion, making it USDA’s third largest food and nutrition assistance program. WIC benefits are distributed as paper vouchers or electronic benefits cards for specified quantities of specific foods designed to meet the nutrition needs of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5. The program reimburses stores for the retail price of the foods purchased with the WIC benefits. If WIC participants chose to redeem their benefits at stores with higher prices, program costs would increase. A recent ERS report finds that, despite the fact that WIC benefits are not structured to encourage participants to consider price when they acquire their WIC foods, 76 percent of WIC retail redemptions in fiscal 2012 were at large lower price stores, such as supermarkets, supercenters, and large grocery stores. Another 9 percent of benefits were redeemed at WIC-only and A-50 stores (those that derive more than 50 percent of annual food-sales revenue from WIC redemptions). This chart appears in the ERS report, Where Do WIC Participants Redeem Their Food Benefits? An Analysis of WIC Food Dollar Redemption Patterns by Store Type, released on April 28, 2016.


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