Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 34
Congress, USDA, local and state WIC agencies, and the National WIC Association should tailor the program to prioritize
the needs of recipients who face disproportionate health and nutritional risks.
• Reduce anemia among WIC participants, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum periods and particularly
among African American women. To reduce anemia, local WIC agencies should provide additional iron supplementation
for participants with low iron levels and increase WIC benefits so that participants
can purchase specified iron-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables.
• Reduce overweight and obesity rates, particularly among Indigenous,
For a brief history of
obesity among Indigenous
Latina, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islander mothers. These women
communities, please see
are more likely to gain excessive weight during pregnancy,140 primarily due to
pre-existing obesity141 142 143 and diabetes.144 145 146 WIC-supported strategies for
weight management, measurement, and evaluation should carefully consider the
criteria that are used to determine appropriate body weight. Some of the women
interviewed for this report reported that the criteria for determining that a person is overweight or at risk of developing
diabetes seem to be racially biased because they do not consider body frames that are common among some women of
color to be within normal weight ranges.
For more on the historical
trauma of government
relations with Indigenous
communities, which led to
mistrust of government,
see Appendix 27.
• Improve data on Indigenous mothers’ health. Lack of information compromises
the ability to assess Indigenous health needs and how WIC can meet their specific
needs. USDA should work with WIC Tribal Agencies to identify the reasons for low
reporting rates and develop culturally appropriate solutions. Mistrust of the federal
government will need to be addressed, since it is part of the historical trauma suffered
by Indigenous women and their families.
• Tailor WIC food packages to better respond to health and nutrition needs
common among people of color. WIC agencies should work with local experts of
color to determine the most common health and nutrition needs in their local communities. WIC food packages should
be tailored to respond to those local needs. Currently, WIC participants who are iron-deficient receive more frequent
monitoring and may be referred to a healthcare provider. To improve racial equity, participants should be given additional
options for iron-fortified foods within their WIC food packages.
Strengthen breastfeeding support for recipients of color
There are many benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, including some that reduce disproportionate risks among infants
of color (for example, higher rates of SIDS) and among their mothers (for example, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and
type 2 diabetes).147
However, WIC does not collect or report data on breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity (see glossary), nor
does it provide breastfeeding rates by race.148 As a result, little information is available. The U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services has reported that African Americans have lower breastfeeding rates than whites and Latinas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed breastfeeding rates among women income-eligible to receive
WIC. Among African Americans, the breastfeeding rate was 37 percent, compared to 57 percent for whites and 74 percent
Some WIC offices offer peer counseling support for breastfeeding, which has been shown to correlate with higher rates
of women planning to breastfeed. Evidence suggests that actual breastfeeding rates increased among African American and
Indigenous mothers when they received prenatal support and peer counseling, although the increases were modest.149 The
largest positive impact was among Pacific Islanders, with a 10 percent increase.150 See Appendix 16 for the complete results.
The research also found that African American mothers who sought post-natal care in WIC offices with peer counseling
support had significantly lower breastfeeding rates than white participants. This was the only racial group with such results. More
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION