The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is Associated with Several Changes in Nutrient Intakes and Food Consumption Patterns of Participating Infants and Young Children, 2008 Compared with 2016

J Nutr. 2020 Nov 19;150(11):2985-2993. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa265.


Background: In 2009 the USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) updated the food packages provided to participants.

Objectives: This study investigates associations between WIC participation and nutrients and food groups consumed using data from the Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study's 2008 and 2016 nationwide, cross-sectional surveys of children <4 y, weighted to be representative of the US population.

Methods: The study data included 2892 children aged 6-47.9 mo in 2008 and 2635 in 2016. Differences were analyzed by WIC participation, survey year, and child age (infants 6-11.9 mo old, toddlers 12-23.9 mo old, preschoolers 24-47.9 mo old). Usual nutrient intake distributions were estimated using National Cancer Institute methodology. Daily food group consumption differences were tested via multivariate regression. All analyses controlled for income.

Results: In 2016 18.6% of infants had iron intakes below the estimated average requirement (EAR), compared to 7.6% in 2008; 87% of WIC infants met the EAR, compared with 69% of non-WIC infants. In 2016 37% of WIC preschoolers met saturated fat guidelines, compared with 25% in 2008; in both years, fewer than one-third of non-WIC preschoolers met the guidelines. More WIC infants than non-WIC infants consumed infant cereals in 2016 (58% compared with 45%, respectively). More WIC infants ate vegetables daily in 2016 than in 2008 (74% compared with 59%, respectively). In 2016, as compared with 2008, more WIC infants consumed baby-food vegetables (55% compared with 29%, respectively) and fruits (56% compared with 41%, respectively). In 2016 47% of WIC preschoolers drank low-fat milk, compared with 19% of non-WIC preschoolers.

Conclusions: Infant iron intakes are concerning, although more WIC infants meet the EAR. WIC infants' vegetable intakes have improved; baby-food vegetables have become important contributors to their intakes. In 2016 WIC children were more likely than non-WIC children to shift to lower-fat milks at 2 y of age, likely contributing to lower saturated fat intakes.

Keywords: Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study; WIC; food group consumption trends; nutrient intake trends; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Assistance*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Time Factors