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Research Finds Many Eligible For Federal WIC Nutrition Benefits Don't Enroll

Billy Brown

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found more than half of families eligible for a federal nutrition program are not enrolled. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children - also known as WIC - aims to provide access to high-nutrition foods for kids, mothers and pregnant women.

But the study from UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy finds only about 43 percent of those eligible for WIC benefits receive them.

The reasons aren't clear yet, but family demographer Kristin Smith says one clue is that those at the lowest income levels tend to participate more than those with slightly higher incomes.

"This is a program that has a little higher eligibility income criteria than other government assistance programs," Smith says, "so maybe those people don't know that they're eligible."

Smith says others may not participate in WIC because of difficulties applying for the program, transportation challenges or a perceived stigma around accepting public benefits. 

This story originally misidentified the Carsey School of Public Policy under its former name. The sentence has been corrected.