How WIC Works

WIC by the Numbers

The volume of people who are eligible for WIC benefits is staggering, as is the amount of money spent on the program throughout the years.

  • In 1975, around 17 million people received WIC benefits, which amounted to roughly $4.6 billion. Since that time, the program costs have gone up, but the number of participants has fluctuated.
  • In 1985, there were 19.9 million recipients who cost nearly $12 billion.
  • In 1995, there were 26.6 million recipients which cost around $24.6 billion.

[source: WIC Numbers]

In 2003, more than 13,468,545 infants and children were eligible to participate in WIC but only 7,684,365 people actually did, according to the Food and Nutrition Service, which means that a little more than 57 percent of the people who were eligible to receive the benefits actually did.

According to a 2002 federal study, Hispanics made up the largest part of the ethnic groups receiving WIC (roughly 38 percent), followed by whites (36 percent), blacks (20 percent) and others: Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native(at 5 percent).

A report released in 2010 by the USDA said the Fiscal Year 2009 WIC budget was $6.86 billion and the Fiscal Year 2010 WIC budget was $7.25 billion [source: USDA]. In 2009, President Barack Obama proposed an additional $10 billion for child nutrition programs to be distributed over 10 years. The additional funding is aimed at ending childhood hunger, reducing childhood obesity and improving the diets of children [source: Concannon]. The additions to the budget were part of the president's goal of ending childhood hunger over a five-year period.

Over the years, there have been some changes to the WIC program. Keep reading to find out about scams involving the program and healthy new alternatives that have recently become available.