BEYOND THE NUMBERS
One way to honor mothers as we approach Mother’s Day is to protect and strengthen the federal child nutrition programs, which help millions of mothers feed their children and are up for renewal this year.
I testified at a Senate hearing today on ways to improve the school breakfast and lunch programs, which serve more than 30 million children on a typical school day. That includes more than 21 million low-income children, whose families may have trouble affording adequate food. I outlined ways to ensure that federal meal subsidies go only for meals that meet program requirements and only to children who qualify for them.
Another key program is WIC, formally the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals to more than 8 million low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and young children. Our major new report summarizes extensive research demonstrating WIC’s effectiveness. Specifically:
- Women who participate in WIC give birth to healthier babies who are likelier to survive infancy.
- WIC supports more nutritious diets and better infant feeding practices. WIC participants now buy and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, following the new WIC food packages that are more closely aligned to current dietary guidance.
- Low-income children on WIC are just as likely to be immunized as more affluent children, and are likelier to receive preventive medical care than other low-income children.
- Children whose mothers were on WIC while pregnant scored higher on assessments of mental development at age 2 than similar children whose mothers were not, and they later performed better on reading assessments while in school.
- Improvements to the WIC food packages in recent years have contributed to healthier food environments in low-income neighborhoods, enhancing access to fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for all consumers regardless of whether they participate in WIC.
WIC is a proven, cost-effective investment that improves the nutrition and health of low-income families. As Congress reauthorizes WIC this year, it should ensure that the program remains strong and accessible to eligible low-income families.