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DeLauro, Sánchez, González-Cólon, Schrier, Young Introduce Bipartisan Wise Investment in Children Act, Urge Congress to Expand Eligibility for WIC

March 18, 2021
Press Release

Introduced in the Senate by Casey, Collins and Supported by the National WIC Association, Legislation Strengthens Vital Nutrition Assistance for Children and Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Jenniffer González-Cólon (R-PR), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), and Don Young (R-AK) joined by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Wise Investment in Children Act (WIC Act). The legislation would extend the eligibility for children to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) until their sixth birthday, extend the certification period to two years, and extend post-partum eligibility to two years for all mothers.

“As our nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, we also face an economic crisis that has left too many families struggling to obtain the food and nutrition that kids need,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, no child should go hungry. The pandemic has shone a light on a problem that has existed for decades: as effective as WIC is, it currently provides nutrition services only up to a child’s fifth birthday. Since each school district has its own cut-off date for kindergarten eligibility, many children do not enter school until well after their fifth birthday—creating an alarming nutrition gap. With schools closed and the national school meal program under more strain than ever, that gap is even wider. That is why I am proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation to fix this problem alongside my distinguished colleagues in the House and the Senate and with the strong support of the National WIC Association.”

“We need to ensure that families are able to stay healthy, especially during these uncertain times,” said Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez. “By closing gaps in WIC nutrition coverage for children before they enter kindergarten, as well as infants and postpartum mothers, we are taking an important step in preventing hunger and devastating health effects. It is critical that we extend certification periods to ensure all WIC participants receive critical services without interruption. In my state of California alone, WIC agencies provide services to over 950,000 participants each month. Passing this bill means these agencies can better provide crucial services to every family, child, and mother that needs them.”

“The WIC program is one of the main tools to offer nutrition services and increase food security in our communities. As of September 2020, Puerto Rico WIC has 100,581 total participants, which includes 61,000 children, 19,106 infants, and 20,475 women. This bill seeks to eliminate nutrition gaps for children and increase support for postpartum women by extending assistance and coverage periods, thus ensuring WIC participants are properly supported. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill, and will continue working alongside my colleagues to push it across the finish line,” said Congresswoman González-Colón.

“This is a much-needed expansion of WIC that will make sure that children and moms are not falling through the cracks during a critical time in their lives,” said Congresswoman Schrier, M.D. “As a pediatrician, I know that as children grow, nutritious food helps them become healthier both physically and cognitively. This bill will also ensure moms have increased access to care at a time when they need all of the support we can give them to keep mom and baby healthy.”

“The WIC program is one of our country's most essential tools to provide proper nutritional support to children and mothers. It is clear that WIC has been instrumental in empowering families to live healthy lives, both in Alaska and across the nation,” said Congressman Don Young. “I have met with countless families in Alaska that have been well-served by WIC when they needed it most, proving that the program gets results. I am proud to help introduce the WIC Act, which takes action to reduce barriers to program participation, increases flexibility for state governments, and continues advancing WIC's original cause: healthy families and improved lifetime health outcomes. This bill is proof that big, bipartisan legislation is still possible. For the sake of the millions of mothers and children whose lives have been transformed for the better by WIC, let's get this bill across the finish line.”

“As millions of families are struggling financially due to the pandemic, new mothers and young children should not be burdened with lack of access to healthy foods. The long-term benefits of nutrition for children are immeasurable—when children are well nourished early in life they’re healthier and do better in school,” said Senator Casey. “By closing the WIC gap and expanding food benefits to age 6, we can help ensure children do not experience a nutritional disadvantage simply because of their birthdate.”

“The WIC program ensures that millions of women, infants, and children—including 16,000 in Maine—are getting the proper nutrition they need to grow and be healthy,” said Senator Collins. “The WIC Act would take important steps to keep eligible new mothers and young children enrolled in this successful and cost-effective nutrition program.  By giving states the flexibility to address the WIC gap and reduce burdensome barriers to participation, our bipartisan bill builds upon the program’s proven ability to improve maternal and child well-being and health outcomes.

“The reintroduction of the Wise Investment in our Children Act (WIC Act) is an essential step that aims to tackle childhood inequities head-on through innovative ideas that center our children's needs first,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association. “The bill leverages WIC’s effective nutrition services to address coverage gaps in nutrition support for postpartum women, infants transitioning to solid foods, and young children preparing to start school. The WIC Act strengthens the program's effectiveness by supporting and addressing critical development stages, so babies and young children get a healthy start to life. We are grateful to our WIC champions – including Senator Casey, Senator Collins, Congresswoman DeLauro, Congresswoman González-Colón, Congresswoman Sánchez, Congresswoman Schrier, and Congressman Young – for their leadership in advocating for this legislation. The WIC Act is a targeted investment in growing a healthier generation of Americans. We look forward to its passage into law.”

“The health of our nation’s children is a national public health issue. WIC is uniquely positioned to assist families in attaining both short-term food security and overall long-term health,” said Marjorie Chambers, WIC Program Director at the Connecticut Department of Public Health. “By continuing to provide services during the pandemic, WIC has learned lessons to improve service delivery and enhance flexibility for participant access. WIC could have an even greater impact on health outcomes by addressing gaps in program eligibility and participation. The WIC Act is a pathway to modernize WIC services for participants and staff alike.”

This bipartisan legislation is a critical step toward resolving nutrition gaps and assuring continued access to the vital services provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), paving the way for a healthier next generation.

WIC serves approximately 6.3 million pregnant and postpartum individuals, infants, and young children up to age five. For nearly fifty years, WIC has contributed to healthier pregnancies, improved birth outcomes for low-income women and infants, and healthier growth and development for young children. WIC’s access to healthy foods provides families with a greater variety and nutritional quality in their diets. WIC is a proven and cost-effective program that more than doubles the return on the initial investment in medical, educational, and productivity cost-savings.

A list of national, state, and local organizations that support the WIC Act is available here.

The text of this legislation is available here, and a summary is available here.