Background: USDA's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides expert-chosen supplemental foods to improve the diets and health of low-income infants and children <5 y of age, but dietary behaviors of WIC participants are not well characterized.
Objective: The purpose of this analysis was to examine differences in food consumption patterns between WIC participants and nonparticipants.
Methods: FITS 2016 is a nationwide cross-sectional study of children <4 y (n = 3235). Data were weighted to provide US population-representative results. Children were categorized as WIC participants or nonparticipants, with the latter divided into lower- and higher-income nonparticipants. Group differences were assessed via the Wald test (demographics) and Rao-Scott modified chi-square test (breastfeeding prevalence). Differences in percentage consuming WIC-provided and selected other foods between WIC participants and nonparticipants were evaluated with the use of ORs and 95% CIs.
Results: WIC infants were less likely to breastfeed than were higher-income nonparticipants at 0-5.9 mo (45% compared with 74%) and less likely than both nonparticipant groups at 6-11.9 mo (30% compared with 49-60%). WIC 6- to 11.9-mo-olds were more likely to consume infant cereals and vegetables than were lower-income nonparticipants. WIC 12 to 23.9-mo-olds were more likely to drink whole milk (which WIC provides at this age) than were nonparticipants (72% compared with 59-64%), whereas WIC participants 24-47.9 mo were more likely to drink low- and nonfat milks (which WIC provides at this age) than were nonparticipants (45% compared with 13-22%). WIC participants 6-47.9 mo were more likely to drink juice than were nonparticipants.
Conclusions: Continued improvements in early dietary patterns are warranted for WIC and non-WIC children. Breastfeeding among WIC participants is a continuing challenge. Findings suggest that baby-food cereals, vegetables, and fruits (all provided by WIC) contribute importantly to WIC infants' diets, whereas WIC children are more likely to use lower-fat milks after 2 y of age than are non-WIC participants.