Investigators from the CDC, US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Health and Human Services reviewed NHANES data from 2011–2014 to compare dietary intake among US children 12–23 months old by status in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program. NHANES is an ongoing survey of the US population that includes a household interview and physical examination of participants. The survey is designed to produce nationally representative data and is conducted in 2-year cycles. For the current study, data collected during the 2011–2012 and 2013–2014 cycles were analyzed. Study participants were children 12–23 months old on whom an adult respondent (typically a parent) provided a 24-hour dietary recall. Information on food and beverage consumption by the study child was included into 1 of 18 food groups using the USDA What We Eat in America categories. For each category, consumption was defined as any or none. Participant WIC status was classified as currently in WIC, eligible for WIC but not receiving benefits, and ineligible for WIC. Children not enrolled in WIC, but eligible, had family incomes/poverty ratios ≤1.85, received Medicaid, or participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (previously known as food stamps). Types of food and beverages consumed among children receiving WIC benefits were compared with those eligible but not receiving, and ineligible, using t-tests. Analyses were weighted to provide nationally representative estimates.
Data on 468 children were used to generate national estimates. Among US children 12–23 months old, 38.1% received WIC, 19.6% were eligible but did not receive WIC, and 42.2% were ineligible. Overall, 49.0% of children receiving WIC were of Hispanic ethnicity, 24.6% were non-Hispanic white, and 16.7% non-Hispanic African American. The percentage of children receiving WIC who consumed 100% juice was significantly higher than that of either those eligible but not receiving WIC or those ineligible (70.6%, 51.6%, and 50.8%, respectively). Compared to those eligible but not receiving WIC, children currently enrolled in WIC were significantly more likely to have consumed vegetables (excluding white potatoes; 60.4% vs 42.3%) and grains (85.5% vs 76.5%). Children ineligible for WIC were significantly more likely to have consumed fruit (86.4% vs 70.6%), protein foods (90.0% vs 80.5%), dairy (97.2% vs 91.7%), and snacks (69.1% vs 48.5%) than those receiving WIC benefits.
The authors conclude that WIC participation could impact diet-related disparities among eligible children.
Dr Doolittle has disclosed no financial relationship relevant to this commentary. This commentary does not contain a discussion of an unapproved/investigative use of a commercial product/device.
The WIC program has been an important and widely used intervention among vulnerable children. One-half of all infants and nearly one-quarter of all 1–4 year olds in the United States participated in WIC.1 WIC participation results in short-term nutritional gains, as well as a greater likelihood of eating...