CHN’s Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship, November 20, 2023


November 20, 2023

November 20, 2023  

The giving thanks edition. This week, Americans will gather with their family and friends in a spirit of camaraderie and companionship – and hopefully, some really good food! Many of you may have things for which you are thankful. A roof over your head. Food on the table. The ability to meet household expenses. Time away from work to be with your loved ones. 

But millions of Americans don’t have that minimal security. According to National Hunger and Homelessness Week, a campaign jointly sponsored by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, 37.2 million people live below the poverty level, including one in six children. Some 580,000 Americans are homeless on any given night, and 44 million are at risk of suffering from hunger. 

All of which makes it all the more sad and frustrating that Congress left town last week having flat-funded government into early next year, but failing to reasonably support programs that help so many in need. Congress’ list of failures is long. It failed to address the child care crisis. It failed to address disaster relief. It failed to provide needed extra funding for the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helped 6 million households last year alone. It failed to address substance use disorders despite the opioid epidemic, and it did not provide needed funds for quality broadband buildout and high-speed internet access for lower-income Americans. 

Most vexing for anti-hunger advocates: it did not provide needed additional dollars for the WIC nutrition assistance program, and SNAP benefits remain in the crosshairs of those who would deny food to people who so desperately need the help. 

It is worth noting that WIC marks its 50th anniversary in January and has always enjoyed bipartisan support. Because of WIC’s benefits to children and mothers, it’s been a long-term goal to ensure that more eligible families sign up for WIC. “This should actually be a really happy moment for the program because caseload is going up,” Georgia Machell, interim CEO of the National WIC Association, told CNN. “And it’s really just bittersweet because folks have been working so hard to increase caseload. We’re seeing that increase happen now, but we just don’t have sufficient funding.” 

Below you’ll read about some of the positive results WIC (and SNAP) have on our children – for this, we are thankful. When Congress comes back after this week’s holiday and resumes work on appropriations measures, it will be important to remind members to support not just WIC but all of the key human needs programs that millions of Americans need to survive and thrive. 

1 in 4 

One in every four Americans participates in federal nutrition programs such as WIC or SNAP. Tweet this.


8 million/
3.6 million 

A 2021 analysis found that SNAP kept 8 million people above the poverty line, including 3.6 million children. Tweet this.



WIC improves child health and developmental outcomes. Children receiving WIC are 16% more likely to be in good health, 24% more likely to be developmentally within normal limits, 14% more likely to be food secure, and 21% more likely to be in a food-secure household. Tweet this.



WIC benefits decrease the likelihood of low birth weight by 44%. Low birth rates are associated with an array of health complications, including respiratory, heart, and intestinal problems, bleeding in the brain, and vision loss. Tweet this.



The number of new parents and young children who eventually could be turned away from WIC if Congress does not approve additional funding. It would be the first time in 25 years that WIC would see waiting lists. Tweet this.


7 million/
6.4 million 

The number of people enrolled in WIC reached 7 million in August – up from 6.4 million one year earlier. In addition to the rising cost of food, this is why additional funding is needed, simply to maintain the current level of services.


+2 million 

This fall, about 13.2 million people with children said their households sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the previous week, up 2 million from a year ago.



-56%; -69% 

House Republicans also have proposed cutting WIC’s highly popular fruits and vegetables program. The allotment for 1-4 year olds would be cut from $25/month to $11, a 56% reduction.  Breastfeeding moms would see their monthly allotment drop by 69%, from $49 down to $15.


$1.4 billion 

The additional WIC funds requested by the Biden Administration due in part to enrollment growth.




The average SNAP recipient in 32 states, plus D.C., Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands saw a monthly loss of $86 in SNAP benefits between December 2022-February 2023 and March-May 2023 due to the end of pandemic-era emergency allotments.