On Thursday, July 20, there was a House briefing titled “Healthy Futures: WIC’s Role in Growing A Stronger Next Generation” that focused on the impact of Cash Value Benefits (CVB’s) to families. Panelists included Madeline Curtis of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Sarah Manasran, a mother receiving WIC benefits from New York; Terelle Johnson of Lower Shore WIC Agency in Maryland; Anna Bullett of The Opportunity Alliance WIC – Maine; and Mollie Van Lieu of the International Fresh Produce Association.

Host Brian Dittmeier of the National WIC Association began by emphasizing that the House Appropriations Committee is advancing a bill that will cut WIC, a program that served an estimated 39% of all infants in the United States in FSY 2022. The CVBs that caregivers currently receive for children would decrease from $25 per month to $11 per month, representing a 56% cut. The bill would also cut CVBs to adults, increase recertification requirements, and reduce the flexible, remote WIC services that expanded access to families during the pandemic.

Manasran noted that without the increase of CVBs, her family would not be able to afford all the fresh fruits and vegetables in its grocery bill. With the current allotment, families are able to provide more of a variety of healthy foods to their families, to experiment with different foods, and to increase their consumption, according to the panelists. Curtis stated that with increased benefits comes increased participation in the WIC program, as well as an increase in healthy food consumption. American pediatricians, she reported, have seen a ¼ cup increase of children’s daily consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables since the increase of the CVBs. This increase in consumption contributes to a successful future for the child, as nutrition in the first 1000 days of life impacts their long-term health.

The briefing closed with information on the House Wise Investment in Children (WIC) Act, introduced by Representatives Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jenniffer González-Cólon (R-PR), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), joined by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). This bill would extend WIC benefits to children up to the age of six, thereby shortening the time gap between WIC eligibility and eligibility for school meals. It would also expand CVBs, extend postpartum food benefits to two years, and extend flexible remote WIC services.

By Jacqueline Glenn, Policy Intern