5 Takeaways from the WIC Funding Shortfall Town Hall


With just days until the March 1st deadline to fund several federal government agencies, families and WIC agencies are still facing uncertainty about whether there will be enough funds to cover all eligible participants this year. No Kid Hungry spoke with a panel of experts about the impact it will have on millions or mothers, infants and young children should the $1 billion shortfall not be addressed.

Ryan Flaherty, Manager of Media & Public Affairs, moderated the panel between: 

  • Craig Moscetti - Senior Manager of Policy, Share Our Strength’s Center for Best Practices
  • Regina Brady - WIC Director, Thames Valley Center for Community Action
  • Mahagani Jenkins - a mother who’s been participating in WIC with her son for the past year.

You can also access the video recording here.

Here are five takeaways from the event:

1. WIC is an important tool that ensures children receive the nutrition they need

WIC is a program designed to deliver crucial benefits and services to participants during a critical time of growth and development - currently benefiting nearly 7 million pregnant women, new mothers, infants and young children across the country.

Moscetti explained how investing in WIC returns benefits for years to come.

“These are things like improved birth outcomes, healthier infants, more nutritious diets, improved child development, and better healthcare for kids,” says Moscetti.

WIC agencies help support these families by helping to provide formula, nutritious food, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Jenkins shared that in addition to the nutrition her son receives, WIC ensures she’s able to stretch her limited budget to afford essentials for her son.

“It allowed me to have more spending money to spend on more diapers, or wipes or things like that.”

Brady has seen how higher food and housing prices mean more people are wanting to join the program.

“The increase in participation has gone hand in hand with the economy. We’re seeing families we’ve not seen in the past,” added Brady. “We’re serving the gamut of participants.”

2. WIC connects families to additional services to support mothers and child development

On top of providing food and formula, WIC participants are also able to access other vital resources including, housing, utility assistance, health services and breastfeeding support. Brady says without WIC, many families couldn’t access these other programs.

“WIC is a really, really significant touch point in our communities with our families. We’re sort of the ‘go to’, if you will, for these families to gain access to these services,” said Brady.

For participants, the connections made through WIC have been invaluable.

“It’s also allowed me to reach out for housing or other things,” said Jenkins. “There are other networks that I’m able to reach out to or that they’ve been able to get me information.”

3. Families across the country would be impacted by a funding shortfall

If Congress does not provide an additional $1 billion in funding, nearly 2 million WIC participants will be waitlisted, turned away or have their benefits cut - something that hasn’t happened in more than three decades. This would be devastating for families already struggling to make ends meet.

“I have one sole income for my child and I to survive off of,” says Jenkins. “Without those fruits and vegetables, especially with a younger child, I think those would affect us a lot.”

Some families would be forced to make impossible decisions, like whether to buy groceries or keep the lights on.

“We’re talking about families who are doing everything they can,” explained Brady. “We’re typically the door families come in when they are in need. Taking this safety net away would be catastrophic.”

4. Families and agencies would feel the impacts of a shortfall immediately.

Congress is still debating its funding plans, but agencies and providers are already scrambling to make sure they’re prepared to service as many participants as possible while recognizing they could have to start turning families away as soon as March.

“We’re already sort of in our planning phases,” says Brady. “The repercussions of a possible budget shortfall are being felt now.”

Agencies across the country are having similar conversations.

“They’re already starting to think about those tough choices to limit the number of eligible families who receive WIC’s vital resources,” added Moscetti.

5. Congress can avoid this outcome by ensuring WIC is fully funded

WIC has enjoyed strong bipartisan support since it was launched 50 years ago - as we would expect of a program serving our youngest and most vulnerable. Right now should be no exception. There is still an opportunity for Congress to fully fund WIC for the millions who are relying on it to provide their children with the best possible start.

“Another continuing resolution does nothing to clear up the uncertainty. It does nothing for the millions of new moms that could be turned away from WIC,” explained Moscetti.

“It’s really frightening for our participants who really rely on us,” added Brady.

As lawmakers finalize this year’s appropriations bills. It’s imperative that they recognize the valuable benefits and services that WIC offers and the dire consequences if eligible families are not able to access them.

“Congress needs to act and act quickly,” said Moscetti. “The only long-term solution here is to commit to full funding of WIC.”