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Women, Infants, and Children Feeding Program

USDA’s WIC program is designed to provide nutritious foods to supplement the diets of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women and children ages 5 years or under.48 In 2009, more than 9.1 million Americans received WIC benefits, and more than $4.6 billion in food purchases were made by the program.49

Unlike SNAP, which, with few exceptions, provides funds for the purchase of most foods, the WIC program allocates funds for certain kinds of foods. WIC benefits are generally provided as monthly checks or vouchers that are distributed through state agencies. These checks and vouchers can be used to purchase designated foods at retailers. A few state agencies also provide foods to participants directly through WIC warehouses and home distribution.50 To receive benefits, WIC participants must have incomes less than 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and be determined to be at “nutritional risk.”51

Currently, foods that qualify for purchase with WIC dollars are high in one or more of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. These requirements were established because populations that qualify for WIC often have deficiencies of these nutrients.52 The WIC program has instituted limited requirements in an effort to promote healthful dietary choices with respect to sodium. In some, but not all, food categories, food must not exceed certain sodium levels or not have added sodium to qualify as a product that can be purchased with WIC vouchers (USDA/FNS, 2007).


There are more than 1.4 million people on active duty in the U.S. military.53 To feed military personnel, the U.S. military purchases more than $800 million in food (GAO, 2000).

The Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).


Available online: (accessed October 15, 2009).

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