Food Assistance & Nutrition Research Program No. (FANRR-27) 44 pp

October 2002

The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Issues

The mission of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk. WIC provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education, and referrals to health care and other social services. Administered by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the program has grown rapidly since 1972. Almost half of all infants and about one-quarter of all children 1-4 years of age in the United States now participate. WIC accounts for almost 12 percent of total Federal spending on food and nutrition assistance. This report describes the WIC program-how it works, its history, program trends, and the characteristics of the population it serves. It also examines issues related to program outcomes and administration. How the WIC community responds to these issues may have a large impact on future program operations.

Keywords: Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs, program operations and integrity, program outcomes, WIC program

In this publication...