Analyses of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data show that on a given day, from 2005-2006 to 2017-2018, WIC recipients of childhood age consumed an increased percentage of total fruit as whole fruit and an increased percentage of milk as low-fat or nonfat milk, changes not observed among WIC income-eligible nonrecipients. This is according to a new study published in The Journal of Nutrition

In 2009, the USDA made changes to the WIC food packages. These changes, which included more whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lower-fat milk, were the first comprehensive revisions to the WIC food packages since the nutrition program began in the 1970s. Studies on dietary intake among WIC recipients have reported a positive association between WIC participation and improved dietary intakes. However, studies have not evaluated trends in dietary intake among children who participate in WIC compared with children who are eligible but do not participate.

Using data from seven 2-year cycles (2005-2006 and 2017-2018), Fryar (National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and colleagues examined trends over time in the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk and other dietary components among children 1 to 4 years of age who were WIC recipients, income-eligible nonrecipients, and those not eligible for WIC. The NHANES is a nationally representative survey conducted to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans. 

From 2005 through 2018, there were no changes in the percentage of children consuming, on a given day, any fruits or vegetables or the total amounts of whole fruits and vegetables consumed by both WIC recipients and income eligible nonrecipients. However, the percentage of fruit consumed as whole fruit increased significantly among WIC recipients, but not among income-eligible nonrecipients. Among WIC recipients, the percentage of children consuming low-fat/nonfat milk, the amount of low-fat/nonfat milk servings consumed and the percentage of the total milk consumed as low-fat/nonfat milk also significantly increased from 2005 to 2018. Conversely, the percentage of energy and servings from added sugars declined significantly. Among WIC-eligible nonrecipients, the servings of whole grains increased significantly, whereas servings and percentage of energy from added sugars declined significantly.

These results suggest changes in dietary patterns for WIC recipients did not always mirror those of US children of the same age. In particular, the percentage of fruit consumed as whole fruit, and the percentage and quantity of milk consumed as low-fat/nonfat milk increased significantly among WIC recipients, but not amount income-eligible nonrecipients.


Fryar CD, Wambogo EA, Scanlon KS, Terry AL, Ogden CL. Trends in Food Consumption Among Children Aged 1-4 Years by Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, United States, 2005-2018. The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 3, March 2023, Pages 839-847,

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