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Healthy Food from Birth to 5

2019 Results

Our pilot incentive programs in three Minnesota counties resulted in increased meals and revenue for those local communities through additional food purchases through the Special Supplemental Assistance Program for Women, Infant & Children (WIC) program.

Further, participant surveys identified food as the most valuable part of the WIC program, which includes health care referrals and other assistance.

Only 57 percent of WIC meals are provided to eligible children.

WIC safeguards the health of pregnant women, infants and children up to age 5 through nutrition education and grocery vouchers funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In Minnesota, is administered by the Minnesota Department of Health’s WIC.

There are 183,231 infants and children eligible for WIC in Minnesota. Yet, only 57 percent are enrolled in WIC, ranking Minnesota with the third highest in the country.


WIC has seen a decrease in participation around the country, and Minnesota is no exception. The drop-off tends to start when infants reach 9 months of age. That has resulted in thousands of eligible children not being served and $24.5 million in federal reimbursements not claimed by Minnesota communities.

WIC parents cite transportation, logistical hurdles, stigma and complex transactions at grocery check-outs as key reasons for not using the program.

Our Approach

We are developing multi-prong strategies to improve WIC participation and enrollment, including easing access, retention incentives, advocacy/data support for state funding and “WIC to 6” legislation, and direct certification avenues.

Working with partners, we:

  • Strive to retain eligible, enrolled kids.
  • Coordinate and develop ways to improve enrollment and retention of WIC participants.
  • Leverage physicians and nurse practitioners to promote the benefits of WIC to eligible patients.
  • Reach out to WIC participants through licensed child care centers and after-school programs.
  • Re-position WIC as adding value to early childhood development.

Our Goal

Provide 1.4 million more meals by increasing WIC’s enrollment and retention of infants and children.

Also see:

Spotlight: WIC Retention Pilot 
Meeting the challenge to prevent a drop in WIC participation after nine months.

Children’s HealthWatch WIC brief
A non-partisan group of experts on ensuring a healthy start for all children

News editorial: MaNews editorial: Maintain Minnesota’s investment in its youngest learners
State’s $50-million-plus commitment for prekindergarten is just a start.

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