Category: Region

World Health Organization Releases Guidelines on the Prevention of Acute Malnutrition

World Health Organization Releases Guidelines on the Prevention of Acute Malnutrition

In November 2023, the World Health Organization released updated guidelines on the prevention of acute malnutrition, also known as wasting. The guidelines followed the release of guidelines specific to the management and treatment of wasting and nutritional oedema that the organization published in July 2023.

Preventing malnutrition is key to long-term growth, development, and positive economic outcomes. Nutrition interventions, including those that prevent malnutrition, are some of the best buys in global development. Ensuring children have access to good nutrition when it matters most is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to create brighter, healthier futures. Leading economists consistently rank nutrition interventions among the most cost-effective ways to save and improve lives around the world with every $1 invested yielding up to $35 in economic returns.

Malnutrition continues to be one of the leading drivers of child death and disability. Malnutrition is the greatest threat to child survival worldwide and is the underlying cause of half of preventable child deaths. That is roughly 3 million children dying before their fifth birthday every year. Those who do survive severe malnutrition in early childhood are much more likely than their well-nourished peers to suffer from lifelong illnesses and disabilities.

We continue to see unprecedented rates of malnutrition and nutrition insecurity as the result of conflicts, climate shocks and stressors, and lingering impacts of the pandemic. New child malnutrition estimates from UNICEF released in May 2023 found that stunting (too short for their age) impacted 22.3% of children under 5 (148.1 million) globally and wasting (too thin for his or her height), the deadliest form of malnutrition, threatened the lives of 6.8%, or 45 million children under 5 globally.

1,000 Days welcomes the two new recommendations specific to the prevention of wasting and nutritional oedema as well as the two new good practice statements:

  • Recommendation 1: In areas of, or during times of high food insecurity, in addition to infant and young child feeding counselling, specially formulated foods (SFFs), including medium-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements (MQ-LNS) or small-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements (SQ-LNS), may be considered for the prevention of wasting and nutritional oedema for a limited duration for all infants and children 6-23 months of age, while continuing to enable access to adequate home diets for the whole family; and in areas of, or during times of high food insecurity, children living in the most vulnerable households should be prioritized for SFF interventions through a targeted approach. However, when targeting is not possible, these SFFs may need to be given to all households through a blanket approach for infants and children 6-23 months of age, while continuing to enable access to adequate home diets for the whole family and providing infant and young child feeding counselling. (Conditional recommendation; Grade: Low certainty evidence)
  • Recommendation 2: In contexts where wasting and nutritional oedema occur, multiple micronutrient powders (MNPs) should not be given to infants and children 6-23 months of age for the specific purpose of preventing wasting and nutritional oedema. (Strong recommendation; Grade: Moderate certainty evidence)
  • Good Practice Statement 1: In contexts where wasting and nutritional oedema occur, preventive interventions should ideally be implemented through a multisectoral and multisystem approach (i.e. food, health, safe water, sanitation and hygiene, and social protection systems). These interventions should include access to healthy diets and nutrition and medical services as appropriate, counselling (breastfeeding, health and nutrition related, especially helping families use locally available nutrient-dense foods for a healthy diet), should address maternal and family needs, and should involve psychosocial elements of care to ensure healthy growth and development.
  • Good Practice Statement 2: Infant and young child feeding counselling must be provided as part of routine care especially in contexts where wasting and nutritional oedema occur. In order for this counselling to have the most benefit for the prevention of wasting and for other child health and nutrition outcomes, personnel carrying out the counselling should have comprehensive training and be supervised regularly, with dedicated resources and time within health system strategic planning for this intervention.

In both the recommendations and in the practice statements, we were pleased to see mention of a multi-sectoral and family approach to these interventions to prevent wasting and nutritional oedema. It is key to provide access to nutritious foods and nutrition support, including breastfeeding counseling and complementary feeding, to whole families to address maternal, infant, and child nutritional needs. The guidelines note that prevention requires a package of interventions to be implemented together rather than focusing on one single intervention. We also support the recommended psychosocial elements of care to ensure healthy growth and development as preventing malnutrition early in life impacts long-term health.

These guidelines provide organizations with the tools necessary to prevent, manage, and treat malnutrition. WHO also notes that further research is needed for many of the recommendations outlined in the guidelines to be most effective in efforts to prevent and treat wasting. The guidelines provide a critical opportunity to advocate for the essential resources to support good, life-long nutrition, particularly among vulnerable populations, including those in the 1,000-day window.

Understanding Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days: Black Moms and Birthing People

To improve our advocacy and nutrition education efforts, 1,000 Days strove to understand sources of nutrition information during the first 1,000-day window and gaps in culturally relevant communications about healthy diets. Through a combination of qualitative research methods, including surveys and an environmental scan, we listened to over 225 Black pregnant and birthing people about their perceptions of their health, when and how they received nutrition information related to their pregnancy, and their preferred sources of information.

1,000 Days Statement on Increased U.S. Infant Mortality Rates

At 1,000 Days, we are deeply concerned by the recent CDC data revealing an increase in infant mortality in the United States for the first time in two decades. Our nation has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates of any wealthy country. This disheartening increase is a stark reminder of the urgent need for collective action to address the critical challenges facing maternal and child health in the United States.

The CDC found that the overall infant mortality rate increased by 3% with significant increases for mothers aged 25-29. Mortality rates also climbed for preterm babies, male infants, and for infants born in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Texas. The data also shows a deepening divide along racial and ethnic lines with infant mortality rates for American Indian or Alaska Native women increasing by over 20%, from 7.4 deaths to over 9 deaths per 1,000 births, while rates for White women increased by about 3% from 4.36 deaths to 4.52 deaths per 1,000 births. Infant mortality rates for infants of Black women did not drastically increase but they continue to experience the highest overall rates of mortality with nearly 11 deaths per 1,000 births, or over double the mortality rate of White infants. The significant disparities in infant mortality rates among different racial groups highlight the pervasive impact of systemic inequities on health outcomes.

1,000 Days remains dedicated to our mission of making the health and well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days, from pregnancy to two years of age, a policy and funding priority. We call on Congress to continue investing in maternal and child health and services, recognizing that it is critical during the 1,000-day window to deliver nutrition and support for women and infants. Access to proper nutrition and comprehensive maternal health services is a right for all women and families, and it is imperative to ensure that no one is left behind. Strong policies and investments in this critical window are not only about saving lives today but also about nurturing healthier generations.

A strong start in life is every child’s right, and we are committed to working alongside partners, communities, and policymakers to create a world where all children can thrive. The CDC’s findings reinforce the urgency of our mission, and we stand ready to collaborate and advocate for the changes needed to ensure better outcomes for everyone.

Together, we can strive for a future where infant mortality is a rare and unacceptable tragedy. Join us in making a difference and securing a brighter future for the next generation.

For more insights and information, please visit the CDC report here.

1,000 Days Statement on Senate Finance Committee Paid Leave Hearing

Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Paid Leave

This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on paid leave, highlighting the critical need for family and medical paid leave and how our current patchwork of paid leave policies falls short of supporting all infants and families. It also confirmed the importance of paid leave for workers, businesses, and the country.

While there have been some gains in paid family leave over the past five years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only about 1 in 4 employees (27 percent) in the private sector workforce have access to paid family leave. Access to paid family leave is lower among those receiving lower wages or working part-time. People of color also have less access to paid family leave than their white counterparts.

This lack of paid family leave means parents are often forced to choose between taking time off from work to care for their young children and earning the income they need to support their families. It means that 1 in 4 women in America return to work just 2 weeks after giving birth, putting their health and that of their infant at risk. Policies that enable parents to spend time nurturing and caring for their babies—particularly in the early weeks after birth and for babies that are born pre-term, low birthweight or with illness—are critical to the healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development of children.

We applaud state, local and business-level efforts to increase access to paid family leave, but it is not enough to address this public health crisis. We need a national paid family and medical leave program that is comprehensive and covers all workers, including small business employees and the self-employed. Paid leave is the biggest obstacle to working women in the U.S. in the 1,000-day window and can reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. Our 2020 qualitative paid leave report highlights real stories from families without access to paid leave and the detrimental impacts it had on their family, including their health and the health of their baby.

We appreciate the Senate Finance Committee’s thoughtful attention to this issue. We call on Congress to take the next step, moving legislation to enact a comprehensive national paid leave policy that supports mothers and families and ensures children get the strongest start to life.

World Food Day 2023 Highlights an Opportunity for the US to Lead on Preventing & Treating Malnutrition

World Food Day 2023 looks similar to recent past food days as the world continues to grapple with high rates of food and nutrition insecurity due to long lasting impacts of the pandemic, climate shocks and stressors, conflict, and inflation. Although much attention has been paid to rising rates of malnutrition, unfortunately, in 2023, malnutrition continues to impact tens of millions of children around the world. New child malnutrition estimates from UNICEF released in May 2023 found that stunting impacted 22.3% or 148.1 million children under 5 globally and wasting threatened the lives of 6.8%, or 45 million children under 5 globally.

To meet the Sustainable Development Goals related to food security and nutrition, targeted interventions and significant investments must be made to reverse the current malnutrition trends and speed up progress. Due to the compounding crises impacting malnutrition, it is estimated that to stay on track with reaching global nutrition targets, at least $10.8 billion each year from 2022 to 2030 is needed.

A new study published just last week in The Lancet shows how dire nutrition needs are, specifically within the 1,000-day window. These new data from WHO, UNICEF, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 1 in 10 babies worldwide are born early, with major impacts on health, survival, and eventual economic impact. Since prematurity is the leading cause of death in children’s early years, there is an urgent need to strengthen prenatal care for mothers that protect both mom and baby, focus on malnutrition prevention in early life, and provide postpartum care that nurtures mom and supports breastfeeding.

In addition to the efforts to treat malnutrition, further attention should be paid to prevention of malnutrition in the first place. Over the last year, USAID has not only released the implementation plan for the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (GMPTA), but also released a position paper on child wasting in June 2023 which outlined specific, actionable steps on how the USG will continue its investments and commitments to reduce and prevent malnutrition globally. Some of these steps include: strengthening nutrition as part of primary health care, building a better understanding of the specific pathways through which food systems can most effectively and efficiently prevent child wasting, improving access to RUTF for treatment and SNFs for prevention, supporting the development of sustainable financing strategies for health systems and the procurement of SNFs, and conducting joint cross-sectional and cross-bureau analyses and/or implementation research in nutrition priority countries.  

Necessary investments would help to close the nutrition insecurity gaps seen in the most vulnerable populations, including women and children. Our advocacy community continues to seek additional monetary investments from the US Government to improve nutrition security. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all childhood deaths under 5, however, it only received under 1.5% of US global health funding in FY2023 while AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis collectively netted roughly 72%. For FY24 funding requests, our global nutrition advocacy community requested $300M for the nutrition sub-account which would save the lives of 30,303 children annually according to the World Bank’s Nutrition Investment Framework. Efforts to reduce funding for this account undermine progress made to address malnutrition and will put lives at risk.

As Congress continues to draft FY24 appropriations bills ahead of the November 17th continuing resolution deadline, we urge them to protect and defend investments aimed at improving the health and nutrition of vulnerable populations, like women and children, particularly in the first 1,000 days. In addition, FY25 budgets and appropriations bill should include investments that both prioritize preventing and treating malnutrition. To accelerate progress on preventing and treating malnutrition, Congress and the US Government must solidify their role as a leader in putting health and nutrition first.

Nutrition is a Feminist Issue

Nutrition only featured in three of the 75+ sessions and events of the Women Deliver conference which brought over 6,0000 advocates, activists and decisionmakers to Kigali, Rwanda, last week. But what Women Deliver demonstrated is that nutrition is part of a much bigger framework, and an integral component of the feminist agenda. Here are three reasons why maternal nutrition is a feminist issue:

  1. The gender nutrition gap is real, widening, and solvable:  It is the political failure to meet the unique nutritional needs of women and girls and ensure their access to nutritious diets, nutrition services, and nutrition care. More than 1 billion adolescent girls and women worldwide suffer from undernutrition, including detrimental lifelong effects of the consequences of wasting and stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, and anaemia, according to UNICEF’s Undernourished and Overlooked: A Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women report. Malnourished mothers give birth to small and vulnerable newborns with immediate and long-term consequences for individual and societal development and growth. Today, approximately 20 million infants are born with low birthweight globally.  Cultural norms, social roles, economic disparities, and discriminatory practices create and sustain this gender nutrition gap. 1,000 Days was among 40+ organizations to launch Closing the Gender Nutrition Gap: An Action Agenda for Women and Girls. It aims to unite stakeholders in the nutrition, health and gender communities to take specific actions that improve women’s and girls’ nutrition while advancing maternal, newborn and child health and gender equality. The Action Agenda prioritizes actions for healthy diets, access to healthcare and social protection, gender equality and creating an enabling policy environment.
  • Adequate nutrition and breastfeeding are part of a woman’s right to bodily autonomy,  which UNFPA defines as  ‘the power and agency of individuals to make choices about their bodies without fear, violence or coercion’. While the concept is often used to advocate for reproductive justice, it goes beyond sexual and reproductive health and services and encompasses access to the wide range of care and services necessary to keep our bodies, minds and spirits healthy and whole – including nutrition – as per the Positive Women’s Network framework. UNFPA announced the Kigali Call to Action: United for Women and Girls’ Bodily Autonomy  for accelerated investments and actions, with women-led organizations and the feminist movement at the centre. Bodily autonomy is a strong platform to call for the right to breastfeed, as well as access to diverse and nutritious foods for all pregnant and lactating women, babies and toddlers. It is also a powerful aggregator to build a solidarity front against regressive forces. 
  • Maternal health is divisive and divided: As advocates calling attention on specific aspects of a woman’s health and wellbeing, we risk positioning women as a set of issues to be solved and competing for attention and space.  This does not only diminish our voice and reduce our impact, but it also leaves a vacuum for the opposition to fill, with clear, unified anti women’s rights messages.  Calling for reproductive justice, access to antenatal care, newborn and child health, respectful care, nutrition services, exclusive breastfeeding are not competing agendas, but all contribute to redressing the systemic inequalities that women face and that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Feminism, as a social justice movement, provides a larger and stronger platform to join forces and advance women’s nutrition, including nutrition for pregnant and lactating women.

Bills We are Watching this Children’s Week

As we kick off the 2023 Children’s Week, we feel a mixture of excitement for the opportunities to improve children’s nutrition and concern about policy and funding proposals that undo progress to protect the health and wellbeing of children and their families in their 1,000-day window.

The nutrition that people receive leading up to and throughout their pregnancy, as well as the nutrition their babies receive in the earliest years of life, has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and thrive. In honor of Children’s Week, 1,000 Days is highlighting some legislation that we support focused on children, mothers, and birthing people. It is our hope that with these bills enacted, moms, babies, and their families will receive the support and resources they need to begin to build a healthier future.

The Wise Investment in Children Act of 2023 (WIC Act of 2023) (H.R.3364/S.1604) expands eligibility to receive benefits under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This would extend the certification period for infants to up to two years and increases the certification time under the program for postpartum women to a period of up to two years.

Modern WIC Act of 2023 (H.R.2424/S.984) would build on lessons learned during the pandemic and modernize WIC to allow remote access. The remote flexibility implemented during the public emergency contributed to a 12% increase in child participation since 2020.

WIC Healthy Beginnings Act (H.R.3151/S.974) requires USDA to make information on infant formula procurement under WIC publicly available. This increases transparency and promotes competition within the sole-supplier model.

Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (H.R.3305/S.1606) will address the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. through historic investments that comprehensively address every driver of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities in the United States. The Momnibus Act includes twelve individual bills that among other actions will make critical investments in social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes, like housing, transportation, and nutrition and extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods.

The Family Act (H.R.3481) would provide employees a family and medical leave insurance monthly benefit payment of two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, limited to a maximum of $4,000, for no more than 60 days of qualified caregiving. The bill also established the Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration.

No Surprise Bills for New Moms Act (H.R.3387) would automatically cover newborns with health insurance for the first 30 days and create a standard for enrollment after that period. It eliminates confusion for new parents by establishing a uniform 60-day enrollment period after that first month. The bill would also have all health plans and insurers notify parents if they receive a bill for an uncovered newborn.

We also continue to remain focused and engaged in the appropriations process for FY2024. Non-defense discretionary programs, which disproportionately serve young children, families, and those most in need across the country, will face the brunt of spending caps and cuts. We must protect programs that support children and families and build off the recent successful increased investments in the first 1,000 days. In doing so, we are letting our children and our nation’s future the opportunity to thrive. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during the 1,000-day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive.

Unpacking the Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates 2023 Edition

On May 18, 2023, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank Group released the Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates, which are published every other year. The new report examines progress to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly (WHA) global nutrition targets and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 2.2 to end all forms of malnutrition. Specifically, the 2030 target is to reduce the number of children under 5 who are stunted by 50% and to reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 3%. Given the crises that low- and middle-income countries are experiencing, including conflict, disasters from climate change like severe droughts or flooding, and lasting impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not surprising, but still alarming, to see that tens of millions of children are affected by stunting and wasting:

  • Stunting impacted 148.1 million children under 5 globally in 2022, or 22.3%.
  • Wasting threatened the lives of 45 million children under 5 globally in 2022, or 6.8%.

Unfortunately, at the midpoint of the SDG period, the stunting target will not be met if the current trajectory of progress continues. The assessment of progress is not even possible for about one quarter of countries as only about one third of all countries are ‘on track’ to halve the number of children affected by stunting by 2030. Similar to stalled levels on stunting but more severe, an assessment of progress towards the wasting target is not possible for almost half of the countries.

The disparities of stunting and wasting and lack of progress lies predominantly in Africa and Southern Asia. In 2022, more than half of all children under 5 affected by stunting lived in Asia and two out of five lived in Africa. Additionally, 70% of all children under 5 affected by wasting lived in Asia and more than one quarter lived in Africa. If the current trajectory continues, an estimated 128.5 million children will be stunted in 2030, with about half of those living in Western and Middle Africa.

Globally, the annual average rate of reduction (AARR) for stunting based on the current trend from 2012 to 2022 is only 1.65 percent per year. But an AARR of 6.08 is required from now to 2030 to achieve the global target of reducing the number of children with stunting to 88.9 million. This rate of reduction is almost four-fold higher than what has been achieved in the last decade.

As countries move further away from the targets, and investments in critical nutrition interventions continue to be limited or reduced, the child malnutrition targets will become more challenging to achieve. Work must now be accelerated to catch up to the lack of progress which in turn is more costly. To compound this issue, the report also highlighted the dire need for addressing reporting and data gaps in countries and regions to measure and indicate progress on child malnutrition.

The report underscores the importance of reminding  decisionmakers, like legislators and policymakers, and program implementers that all forms of malnutrition are preventable and that it is not too late to get countries and regions on track to meet these critical targets. Nutrition interventions are relatively inexpensive to implement and have an extremely high return on investment (ROI), with every $1 invested yielding up to $35 in economic returns. As malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year, smart investments in global nutrition now would support billions of children to reach their full potential and help end the cycle of poverty and malnutrition once and for all. By ensuring all children and families have access to nutritious foods and essential health and nutrition services through proven nutrition interventions, substantial progress can be made to reduce and prevent stunting and wasting.  

https://data.unicef.org/resources/jme-re 1

Undernourished and Overlooked: A Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women

Photo credit: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

Published: March 2023 

Publication: Undernourished and Overlooked: A Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women 

Authors: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 

Background: 

In the 12 hardest-hit countries, the number of pregnant and breastfeeding women and adolescent girls suffering from acute malnutrition has soared from 5.5 million to 6.9 million – or 25 per cent – since 2020.  

More than 1 billion adolescent girls and women worldwide suffer from undernutrition which includes underweight and short height, micronutrient deficiencies, and anemia.  

Globally, 51 million children under 2 are stunted. Almost half of all stunting early childhood originates during pregnancy or in the first six months of life – a time when children are entirely dependent on their mothers for nutrition.  

Summary: 

The report analyzes the current status, trends and inequities in the nutritional status of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age (15-49 years), the barriers they face in achieving a nutritious diet, utilizing essential nutrition services, and benefiting from nutrition and health-focused practices. Data were analyzed from more than 190 countries and territories, representing more than 90% of adolescent girls and women from around the globe. 

Findings: 

  • Progress on addressing adolescent girls’ and women’s nutrition is not advancing quickly enough and has been deprioritized. The current global food and nutrition crisis may slow progress even further and no region is on track to meet the 2030 global targets to reduce anemia in adolescent girls and women by half and low birthweight in newborns by 30%. 
  • Prevalence of undernutrition and anemia is highest in the lowest income regions and disadvantaged adolescent girls and women are more likely to experience it. The prevalence of underweight among adolescent girls and women belonging to the poorest households is double the prevalence in the wealthiest households (14% v. 7%). 
  • Poor nutrition is generational. The nutritional status of a mother, including weight, height, and low birthweight, are consistent predictors of stunting and wasting in early childhood. Child undernutrition is concentrated in the same regions as maternal undernutrition.  
  • The global food and nutrition crisis is worsening the health and nutrition in adolescent girls and women. Adolescent girls and women have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on livelihoods, income, and access to nutritious food. They are also disproportionately impacted by conflict, climate change, poverty, and other economic shocks.  
  • Diets of adolescent girls and women are not diverse enough to meet nutritional needs. Fewer than 1 in 3 adolescent girls and women have diets meeting the minimum dietary diversity in the Sudan, Burundi, Burkina Faso, and Afghanistan. In other countries, the percentage of women being able to access nutritionally adequate, diverse diets, continues to fall.  
  • Gender and social inequalities have further slowed progress on improving nutrition in adolescent girls and women. Child marriage and adolescent pregnancy have profound negative impacts for nutrition in adolescent girls and their children. Often, women do not have the ability to make their own decisions, including those that would enhance their education and employment opportunities. 
  • The nutrition programs and services designed to address undernutrition have not reached the number of women or adolescent girls impacted or has not met the full nutritional needs of these populations. Only 2 in 5 pregnant women benefit from iron and folic acid supplementation for the prevention of maternal anemia and only 29 low- and middle-income countries provide multiple micronutrient supplements, or prenatal vitamins. Conflict and humanitarian crises like the one in Afghanistan, have made these gaps in coverage grow even larger. 
  • There are policy gaps in addressing undernutrition in adolescent girls and women. Of the eight key policies reviewed that address adolescent girls’ and women’s nutrition, only 8% of countries have all of the policies while 39% have only four or less. 

Governments, development and humanitarian partners, the private sector, civil society organizations, and research and academia sectors must work together to strengthen nutrition governance, activate the food, health and social protection systems, and transform harmful social and gender norms to deliver nutritious and affordable diets, essential nutrition services and positive nutrition and care practices for adolescent girls and women everywhere. 

Key Quotes: 

“Women and girls need access to nutritious and affordable diets, including fortified foods, and essential nutrition services before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.” 

House FY24 Agriculture Appropriations Bill will Stall Progress, Decrease Access for Families in Need

1,000 Days is dismayed by the House Appropriations Committee’s fiscal year 2024 Agriculture Appropriations bill released today. This bill under delivers in providing nutrition assistance to those in need and rolls back successful program improvements implemented during the pandemic. Of concern, the bill would reduce funding levels for WIC below current levels, with proposed funding $800 million below the FY24 President’s Budget request. This would result in fewer women and children being served, and possible waitlists for those that qualify for the program. The proposed House Agriculture Appropriations bill ends the increased fruit and vegetable benefits that have been provided to families since April 2021, further reducing nutrition benefits provided to WIC participants. These benefits have had multiple benefits, especially for young children, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption in WIC toddlers and a broader variety of fruit and vegetable purchases by parents. The bill also undermines the science-based review process for the WIC food package, preventing USDA from updating the foods provided to include more fruits, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains.

The proposed bill is short-sighted, cutting benefits to pregnant women, infants and children when investment in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday sets the foundation for all the days that follow. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during the 1,000-day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. Research has proven that WIC saves lives. WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality; reduces low birthweight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy; and it improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children. We call on Congress to fund WIC at $6.35 billion in fiscal year 2024, providing essential nutrition services during this critical timeframe.