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The number of Louisiana residents taking part in the federal nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) declined 20 percent from fiscal years 2015 to 2019, the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service reported.

The participants receiving supplemental nutritional benefits numbered 128,935 in FY 2015, compared to 103,170 in FY 2019, a drop of 26,765. As a percentage of population, the decrease in Louisiana was the 18th largest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

To qualify for WIC, pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as infants and children up to 5 years old, must not come from households whose incomes exceed 185 percent of the U.S. poverty threshold. For a family of four, a household cannot earn more than $47,638 annually to take part in the program.

Participants also must be deemed at “nutritional risk.” The risk may involve medical conditions such as being underweight or having anemia, or they can result from poor diet, according to the Food and Nutrition Service.

Nationwide, WIC participation declined 20.2 percent over the five-year period, from just over 8 million in FY 2015 to 6.4 million in FY 2019. That’s a drop of more than 1.6 million participants, according to federal data released in January.

WIC Participation Rates, State by State

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