Federal programs can provide low-income women and their families with essential help in obtaining food and income support. The Federal Food Stamp Program helps low-income individuals purchase food; in 2003, 68 percent of all adult Food Stamp participants were women. Nearly half (46 percent) of women participants were in the 18-35 age group.

The Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) also plays an important role in serving women and families by providing supplementary nutrition during pregnancy, the postpartum period, and while breastfeeding. Most WIC participants (76 percent) are infants and children; however, the program also serves over 1.8 million women, representing 24 percent of WIC participants. From 1992 to 2003, the number of adult women participating in WIC increased by 51 percent, and it continues to rise.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Federally- and State-funded, provides monetary assistance and work opportunities to needy families. In 1996, TANF replaced the national welfare program known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and related initiatives. The main goals of TANF are to move recipients into work and to turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance with a lifetime maximum enrollment of 5 years.

In Fiscal Year 2002, adult TANF recipients numbered 1.3 million, of whom 1.2 million (over 90 percent) were women. Over three-quarters of female TANF recipients were in the 20-39 year age group. Among adult female TANF recipients, 25 percent were employed, 47 percent were unemployed and work, and 27.5 percent were not in the labor force (unemployed and not looking for work.

In 2002, the average amount of monthly assistance provided through TANF was $418 per family. Of TANF families who had earned income, the monthly earnings averaged $683.

Graph: Adult Recipients of Food Stamps by Age and Sex[d]

Graph: Women WIC Participants[d]

Graph: Female Recipients of TANF by Employment Status[d]

Graph: Female Recipients of TANF by Age[d]