Publications

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  • WIC Participation Continues To Decline

    Amber Waves, June 05, 2017

    Improving economic conditions and declining births have contributed to the 16-percent drop in the number of people participating in USDA’s WIC assistance program since 2010.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2016 Annual Report

    EIB-169, March 30, 2017

    In fiscal year 2016, USDA’s 15 domestic food and nutrition programs totaled $101.9 billion. This was 2 percent less than the previous fiscal year, and about 7 percent lower than the historical high of $109.2 billion set in fiscal year 2013.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2015 Annual Report

    EIB-150, March 17, 2016

    Spending for USDA's 15 domestic food and nutrition programs totaled $104.1 billion in fiscal 2015, or about the same as the previous fiscal year. This was about 5 percent lower than the historical high of $109.2 billion set in FY 2013.

  • Infant Formula Manufacturers Offer Large Rebates to Win WIC Contracts

    Amber Waves, October 05, 2015

    To reduce costs, WIC State agencies are required to have competitively-bid rebate contracts with infant formula manufacturers. In recent years, rebates have been large (over 90 percent of the wholesale price), every contract has received multiple bids, and contracts have turned over about 38 percent of the time.

  • Manufacturers' Bids for WIC Infant Formula Rebate Contracts, 2003-2013

    EIB-142, July 07, 2015

    In many States, there is a large disparity between the winning manufacturers' bids for WIC contracts and the bids of the first runners-up, as each manufacturer's bid involves a rebate to the State program that lowers the price to WIC.

  • WIC Experienced Largest Decrease in Participation in Program’s History in 2014

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2015

    In fiscal 2014, an average 8.3 million people per month participated in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), 5 percent fewer than the previous year and the fourth consecutive annual decline in participation.

  • Painting a More Complete Picture of WIC: How WIC Impacts Nonparticipants

    Amber Waves, April 06, 2015

    USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) directly affects participants’ health through improved diets and greater use of health care services. WIC also indirectly impacts food choices, diet, and health of non-participants through its effects on food stores and food manufacturers.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2014 Annual Report

    EIB-137, March 20, 2015

    Federal expenditures for USDA's domestic food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $103.6 billion in fiscal 2014, or 5 percent less than the previous fiscal year--the first decrease since 2000.

  • The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2015 Edition

    EIB-134, January 27, 2015

    As WIC matures, emerging issues include equity concerns, food cost management, changes in the WIC food packages, the program's lesser known effects, and the impact of economic conditions on participation.

  • Differences in Per-Person Food Costs for SNAP and WIC Have Widened Over Time

    Amber Waves, July 07, 2014

    When the WIC program was initiated in 1974, the average monthly WIC food cost per person was similar to the average monthly SNAP benefit per person. In fiscal 2013, monthly SNAP benefits averaged $133 per person and per person food costs for WIC were $43 per month.

  • Infant Formula Costs to the WIC Program Fall

    Amber Waves, March 04, 2014

    WIC State agencies enter into cost-containment contracts with infant formula manufacturers for formula provided to WIC participants. Contracts are awarded to the manufacturer offering the lowest net price (wholesale price minus the rebate offered by the manufacturer). A recent ERS study found that net prices had decreased in 20 of 22 WIC contracts awarded after 2008, resulting in annual savings of $107 million, holding retail markups constant.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2013 Annual Report

    EIB-120, February 20, 2014

    Federal expenditures for USDA's domestic food and nutrition assistance programs totaled $108.9 billion in fiscal 2013, or 2 percent more than the previous fiscal year--the smallest annual increase in percentage terms since 2000.

  • USDA’s Food Assistance Programs: Legacies of the War on Poverty

    Amber Waves, February 03, 2014

    USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs—many of which were conceived half a century ago—are still some of the Federal Government’s most important means of fighting poverty and improving the economic well-being of needy Americans.

  • Trends in Infant Formula Rebate Contracts: Implications for the WIC Program

    EIB-119, December 02, 2013

    Most WIC State agencies are currently paying lower net prices for infant formula (adjusting for inflation) than under the previous contracts they negotiated with manufacturers - allaying earlier concerns about rising prices.

  • Economic Conditions Affect the Share of Children Receiving Free or Reduced-Price School Lunches

    Amber Waves, May 06, 2013

    During the Great Recession and continuing through 2010, the share of National School Lunch Program participants receiving free or reduced-price meals increased 10 percent. Preliminary data for 2011 and 2012 show that this share continued to rise even after the unemployment rate started to decline, indicating the need for assistance remained high.

  • Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2012 Annual Report

    EIB-109, March 15, 2013

    In FY 2012, about 1 in 4 Americans participated in at least one of USDA's 15 food and nutrition assistance programs. Expenditures for these programs totaled $106.7 billion, 3 percent more than the previous fiscal year.

  • How Economic Conditions Affect Participation in USDA Nutrition Assistance Programs

    EIB-100, September 21, 2012

    ERS examines the relationship between economic conditions and participation across USDA's five largest nutrition assistance programs, and describes how changes in policies and other factors affect participation.

  • The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2011 Annual Report

    EIB-93, March 19, 2012

    ERS reports trends in USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal 2011. Federal expenditures for these programs totaled $103.3 billion in fiscal 2011, 8 percent above the previous fiscal year.

  • Winner Takes (Almost) All: How WIC Affects the Infant Formula Market

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2011

    In exchange for exclusive sales arrangements, manufacturers provide large rebates to States for formula purchased through the program. Winning a WIC contract significantly increases a manufacturer's market share.

  • The Infant Formula Market: Consequences of a Change in the WIC Contract Brand

    ERR-124, August 18, 2011

    The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is the major purchaser of infant formula in the United States. To reduce cost to the WIC program, each State awards a sole-source contract to a formula manufacturer to provide its product to WIC participants in the State. As part of the contract, the WIC State agency receives rebates from the manufacturers. In this study, we use 2004-09 Nielsen scanner-based retail sales data from over 7,000 stores in 30 States to examine the effect of winning a WIC sole-source contract on infant formula manufacturers' market share in supermarkets. We find that the manufacturer holding the WIC contract brand accounted for the vast majority-84 percent-of all formula sold by the top three manufacturers. The impact of a switch in the manufacturer that holds the WIC contract was considerable. The market share of the manufacturer of the new WIC contract brand increased by an average 74 percentage points after winning the contract. Most of this increase was a direct effect of WIC recipients switching to the new WIC contract brand. However, manufacturers also realized a spillover effect from winning the WIC contract whereby sales of formula purchased outside of the program also increased.