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Support for WIC and Child Nutrition Programs

  • Date: Nov 18 2003
  • Policy Number: 200319

Key Words: Maternal And Child Health, WIC Women Infants And Children

We as a nation demonstrate our commitment to the future through our efforts to ensure the health and well-being of our children. This principle affirms and is consistent with the American Public Health Association’s historic mission of protecting and promoting the public’s health.

The federally funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)1 and the Child Nutrition programs2 (National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Feeding Program, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Milk Program) are of critical importance in protecting and ensuring the health and well-being of America’s children, and low-income, pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women. These programs, in addition to providing foods that support optimal nutrition, help to eliminate hunger and food insecurity,3 and can potentially reduce the epidemic of childhood overweight and risks of nutrition-related chronic diseases by promoting healthy eating. Adequate resources for these programs are needed.

Evaluation and cost-effectiveness research clearly shows that WIC participation increases birth weight, reduces low birth weight and preterm births, reduces Medicaid costs, and increases access to health services for children 1-5 years of age who are Medicaid participants.4-7 

Among participants in the National School Breakfast and Lunch Program, studies have shown improvements in academic functioning8 and overall nutritional intake, including fruits, vegetables and milk.9-11 Supporting healthy school environments that offer nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables and low-fat milk, and opportunities for physical activity can help address the epidemic of overweight among children.12 Recognizing the importance of WIC and the Child Nutrition Programs in contributing to the health of America’s low-income children and pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, APHA supports:

  1. Additional federal funding to develop, implement, and evaluate nutrition interventions across the Child Nutrition Programs and WIC to encourage and support breastfeeding, healthy eating, physical activity, and overweight prevention for children and their families. Such programs should includes environmental and behavioral approaches and policy change strategies. Additional funds should also support efforts to reduce food insecurity, hunger, overweight and obesity, and increase physical activity; to encourage increased consumption of fruits and vegetables; to provide increased funding for WIC breastfeeding education and support; and to provide targeted interventions to reach underserved populations of color.
  2. Full continuous funding for the WIC program to reach all nutritionally at-risk, eligible1 women and children with nutrition services and supplemental foods, including addition of fruits and vegetables in the WIC food package.
  3. Increased fruit and vegetable (fresh and processed) intake through the school meal programs, with efforts such as grants to states and school districts for 5 A Day initiatives, including farm-to-school programs, salad bars, school gardens, cold storage and other infrastructure development, and expanding the fruit and vegetable pilot projects.
  4. Giving schools flexibility to decide what type(s) of milk to offer with school meals (i.e., remove the whole milk requirement). Encourage schools to serve and promote low-fat milk and fat-free milk.
  5. Increasing access to child nutrition programs by eliminating the reduced price category, thus making all children in households with income up to 185 percent of the national poverty index eligible for meals at no charge to the student and reimbursed by the federal government to the school at the free rate; and a similar eligibility threshold for all programs including summer food service and at-risk after school snack programs.
  6. Authorizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish and enforce regulations for all food sales anywhere on school campuses throughout the school day for schools that participate in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Program. These regulations should not preempt states or school districts from having stronger requirements. The Secretary of Agriculture should convene an advisory committee of experts in child health, nutrition and education to develop recommendations for nutrition standards for competitive foods.
  7. Funding for health outcomes, policy, and evaluation research to identify effective nutrition services delivery, behavioral and environmental intervention approaches, and innovative demonstration and pilot projects.
  8. Strengthening nutrition education by adding federal funding for state-level infrastructure for coordinating and delivering nutrition education.


  1. Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture. WIC Program. http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic. Accessed 5/27/03.
  2. Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture. Child Nutrition Programs. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd. Accessed 5/27/03.
  3. Food and Nutrition Service, US Department of Agriculture. Food Security Action Resources. http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsec. Accessed 5/27/03.
  4. Oliveira V, Gundersen C. WIC increases the nutrient intake of children. Food Rev 2001;24:27-30.
  5. Institute of Medicine (U.S.). Committee on Scientific Evaluation of WIC Nutrition Risk Criteria. WIC nutrition risk criteria: a scientific assessment. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996.
  6. US Department of Agriculture. The savings of medicaid costs for newborns and their mothers from prenatal participation in the WIC program. Volume 1. Alexandria, VA: Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Analysis, Nutrition and Evaluation, 1991.
  7. Buescher PA, Horton SJ, Devaney BL, et al. Child participation in WIC: Medicaid costs and use of health care services. Am J Public Health 2003;93:145-150.
  8. Murphy JM, Pagano ME, Nachmani J, Sperling P, Kane S, Kleinman RE. The relationship of school breakfast to psychosocial and academic functioning: cross-sectional and longitudinal observations in an inner-city school sample. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1998;152:899-907.
  9. Gleason P, Suitor C, US Food and Nutrition Service. Children’s diets in the mid-1990s: dietary intake and its relationship with school meal participation. Alexandria, VA: US Dept of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, 2001.
  10. Nicklas TA, Myers L, Reger C, Beech B, Berenson GS. Impact of breakfast consumption on nutritional adequacy of the diets of young adults in Bogalusa, Louisiana: ethnic and gender contrasts. J Am Diet Assoc 1998;98:1432-1438.
  11. Basiotis PP, Lino M, Anand RS. Eating breakfast greatly improves school children’s diet quality. Fam Econ Nutr Rev 1999;12:81-84.
  12. US Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001.

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