Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children and Dietary Intake in Children: Associations With Race and Ethnicity

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Introduction: Establishing healthy dietary intake in pediatric populations is important for prevention of chronic disease across the lifespan. Federal nutrition assistance programs can support the dietary intake of U.S. children. The objective of this study was to assess the relationship between Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) participation status and dietary intake within racial and ethnic groups.

Methods: Dietary intake of children aged 2-4 years in the cross-sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2016 was analyzed in 2021. Multivariable linear regression was used to compare stratum-specific mean estimates for nutrient and food group intake of children participating in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (reference group) with those of nonparticipants who were income eligible and income ineligible (i.e., above income limits) for the WIC program. Significance was set to Bonferroni-corrected p-values.

Results: Hispanic WIC participants consumed less added sugar (8.9 [SE=0.5] teaspoons) than theirhigher-income counterparts (14.6 [SE=1.5] teaspoons,p<0.001). Hispanic WIC participants alsoconsumed morefiber (13.0 [SE=0.6] grams) than income-eligible (11.4 [SE=0.7] grams,p=0.032)and income-ineligible (i.e., higher-income, 9.4 [SE=1.3] grams,p=0.019) nonparticipants, but thiswas not significant at the Bonferroni-adjusted p-value of 0.01. No differences in dietary intake were observed by WIC participation status for non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black children.

Conclusions: Participation in WIC was associated with healthier dietary outcomes among Hispanic children; however, dietary intake of White and Black children was comparable by WIC participation status. Federal nutrition assistance programs should support sound nutrition, an important factor in reducing the risk of chronic disease, in all groups.


Available online 27 December 2021.






American Journal of Preventive Medicine