Just thought I’d do a little math for fun today. WIC’s 2011 budget was $7 billion, with 9 million participants. A little quick division and you can see on average it costs about $775 per year for each WIC participant to be in the program.
Obviously some food packages cost less than others (all three of my children spent at least a little bit of time on the WIC program as exclusively breastfed babies, and their food package cost zero dollars those first 6 months. Other babies have major formula sensitivies and illnesses, and their parents are unable to breastfeed, so they end up on super expensive formula), but I’m more concerned with the big picture for now.
That $775 per participant per year covers more than the food costs, though; it covers the administrative costs as well. It pays for the building the clinic is in and its utilities. It pays for the breastfeeding peer counselors, the nutritionists, the literature, and all those finger pokes for iron testing. Overall, I would say that $775 per participant per year is a pretty good use of funds!
But let’s go a step further. There are over 200 million tax payers in the United States. Nearly half of these do not end up paying federal income tax, so let’s just say that 100 million tax payers pay for the $7 billion budget of the WIC program. Again, some of these tax payers will pay more, and some will pay less, but let’s over simplify the equation once again. When we do the division, we find that the average tax payer is giving up $70 per year to help 9 million WIC participants. In my opinion, that’s not too bad!
The only problem is that part of the reason WIC can do so much on so little is because formula companies that make contracts with WIC (Nestle, Abbot, etc.) will give the government formula at a lower price (buy in bulk and save), but then to offset that cost, they charge a higher price to everyone else at the store.
So when it comes down to it, WIC is paid for both by tax dollars and non-WIC formula feeding mothers. It may not be fair, but it’s the American way!