“The vital nutrients that are provided with WIC, particularly through the fruits and veggie voucher program, they’re really essential, and they make the program palatable and of interest to moms and their kids,” said Horton. “Unfortunately, that’s gotten caught up in the … rollback of everything that was happening during the pandemic. And I think folks have lost sight of the fact that we’re talking about hunger with moms and kids.”
WIC is a critical program for the nation’s low-income mothers and young children; in 2022, nearly 40 percent of all infants in the United States received WIC benefits. Research has found that maternal WIC participation is associated with a lower risk of preterm delivery and infant mortality, increased preventive care and better cognitive development for children, and purchasing of healthier foods for mothers and children. The program helps participants buy certain food items, and provides vouchers for pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding parents to purchase fruits and vegetables. It also offers breastfeeding support and health care screenings and referrals.
Emily Church, a mother living in Millfield, Ohio, has relied on WIC in the infancy and early childhood of both of her children: her son Kayson, now 19, and her 3-year-old daughter, Myles Mae. “The package includes $26 in cash [vouchers], fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cheese, and peanut butter—I often say, it’s close to probably at least an $80 value, if not more, when all is said and done,” Church said.