How are rising egg prices affecting the WIC program?

WIC is a food assistance program for low-income pregnant women, infants and children.

Although the Northern Illinois Food Bank is distributing less eggs these days, one program for low income people is impervious to the eggs high cost so far,

The high cost of eggs is not affecting the number of people in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is able to serve, according to Patrick Laughlin deputy director of communications for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

“The number of WIC customers we serve has actually increased since egg prices have increased,” Laughlin said in an email. “This has been fueled in part by the higher price of eggs and other food items. As food costs rise, eligible families are more likely to enroll in the WIC program.”

WIC is a food assistance program for low-income pregnant women, postpartum women, babies and children up to age 5 determined to be at nutritional risk by a health professional, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.

Through WIC, states receive federal grants for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education,” the USDA said.

People enrolled in the program receive a WIC EBT card to purchase certain amounts of select nutritious foods items, such as produce, eggs and dairy products, cereals and whole grains, dry peans or peas, and peanuts, the USDA said.

Because of the way WIC is designed, fluctuating egg prices don’t impact those items.

“The food items WIC provides are part of a monthly ‘food package prescription’ that includes a dozen eggs,” Laughlin said in the email. “We do not remove items from the package due to cost.”

Still, Laughlin said in the email the USDA provides the WIC program with a set amount of food funds for each year. So how is WIC able to adjust to the higher price tags on those cartons of eggs?

“Participation rates, while currently rising, have been low,” Laughlin said in the email. “And we do not have any current concerns about going over our USDA budget.”

So does WIC cap off the price it will pay for certain products, including eggs? That doesn’t seem to be the case.

In order to accept WIC benefits, retail grocery stories must contract with the WIC program, Laughlin said in the email. As part of that agreement, WIC reimburses the true cost of an item and doesn’t exceed that threshold.

Laughlin said in the email, ”the price evaluation is conducted the same way for all foods.”

“The WIC program is charged with monitoring food costs across our various retail stores and evaluates prices monthly to determine if those values should be increased,” Laughlin said in the email.