Participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) among 0- to 5-year-old children is associated with healthier diets. Extension of dietary benefits to older, age-ineligible children (5-18 years old) residing in WIC households has not been fully investigated.
Examine the association between household WIC participation and dietary behaviors of age-ineligible children.
Cross-sectional secondary analysis of data collected from 2 independent panels (2009-2010 and 2014) of the New Jersey Child Health Study, using household surveys. Questions derived from national surveys assessed consumption frequency of specific foods among 5- to 18-year-old children.
The analytic sample included 616 age-ineligible children from households with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level, 398 of whom were from WIC-participating households.
Main outcome measures
Eating behaviors were measured as frequency of daily consumption of fruit, vegetables, 100% juice, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sweet and salty snacks.
Multivariable negative binomial models examined the association between eating behaviors and household WIC participation status adjusting for child’s age, sex, and race; mother’s education; city of residence; household size; and panel. Results are expressed as incidence rate ratios (IRRs).
Household WIC participation was not associated with dietary behaviors among age-ineligible children (5-18 years old) in the overall sample. However, healthier dietary patterns were observed for specific demographic groups. Compared with age-ineligible children in non-WIC households, age-ineligible children in WIC households had (1) a higher frequency of vegetable consumption among 12- to 18-year-old children (IRR = 1.29; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05-1.58; P = .015); (2) a marginally significant higher frequency of 100% juice consumption among females (IRR = 1.27; 95% CI 1.00-1.62; P = .053); and (3) a lower frequency of sugar-sweetened beverages consumption among Hispanic children (IRR = 0.61; 95% CI 0.43-0.86; P = .004).
Household WIC participation may positively influence dietary behaviors of age-ineligible children, suggesting a possible WIC spillover effect. Revisions to WIC package composition should consider the possible dietary implications for all children in the household.