U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Women and Federal Nutrition Programs

Federal programs can provide low-income women and their families with essential helping obtaining food and income support. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Federal Food Stamp Program,helps low-income individuals purchase food. In 2007, more than 13 million adults participated in SNAP; of these, nearly 9 million (67.8 percent) were women. Among participating women, nearly 4.1 million (45.7 percent) were in the 18- to 35-year-old age group.The number of people participating in SNAP increased significantly in 2008 due to the economic downturn resulting in an addition of nearly 4 million people of all ages from January through September 2008 alone.1

Female-headed households with children make up 30.5 percent of households that rely on food stamps, and represent nearly 60 percent of food stamp households with children (data not shown).

The Special Supplemental Nutrition 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. More than three-quarters of all WIC participants are infants and children (75.3 percent); however, the program also serves more than 2 million pregnant women and mothers, representing 24.7 percent of WIC participants in 2008. During the years 1992–2008, the number of women participating in WIC increased by 75.6 percent, and it continues to rise.

1 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. SNAP Monthly Data – National Level. November 2008 [online]. http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/34SNAPmonthly.htm, accessed 12/10/08.

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