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 essential help to low-income women and their families in obtaining food and income support. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Federal Food Stamp Program, helps low-income individuals and families purchase food. In 2008, nearly 14.3 million adults participated in SNAP; of these, more than 9.5 million (66.8 percent) were women. Among participating women, 4.4 million (46.2 percent) were in the 18- to 35-year-old age group.

Female-headed households with children made up 29.4 percent of households that relied on food stamps, and represented 57.7 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. In 2009, more than three-quarters of all individuals receiving WIC benefits were infants and children (76.1 percent); however, the program also served nearly 2.2 million pregnant women and mothers, representing 23.9 percent of WIC participants. During the years 1992–2009, the number of women participating in WIC increased by 77.9 percent.

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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