clude that some participants are truly ineligible, and that funding could be reduced somewhat and still meet the needs of truly eligible people who would participate under full funding (see U.S. House of Representatives, 1998). In contrast, some advocates and state WIC agencies believe that the estimates of the number of eligible persons are too low and that there are additional people who are eligible and want to participate.
In response to these concerns, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the USDA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Research Council to convene a panel of experts to review the methods used to estimate the national number of people eligible for WIC and the assumptions underlying estimates of the national number of people likely to participate if enough funds are allocated to serve all who wish to participate, that is, if the program is fully funded. The panel is charged with reviewing data and methods for estimating income eligibility, adjunctive eligibility from participation in other public assistance programs, nutritional risk, and for estimating participation if the program is fully funded. The panel was also asked to consider alternative methods and data for making these estimations.
The study includes two phases. In the first phase, the panel was asked to provide preliminary feedback to FNS by reviewing the current methodology for making eligibility and participation estimates and the relevant literature on these estimations, assessing the methodology, and potentially recommending improvements to the methodology. The first phase began when the panel was formed in November 2000. Since its formation the panel has hosted two meetings, the first of which discussed the panel’s charge, the WIC program, and methods for estimating WIC eligibility and participation, and the second of which was a workshop to examine components of the estimation methodology in more detail, and to learn more about how the WIC program operates in states. Agendas for both of these meetings are included in Appendix B. In preparation for the panel’s work, FNS contracted with Mathematica Policy Research Inc. to prepare a report that reviewed the estimation methodology and identified several data and methodological issues (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1999a). This overview report, the presentations and background information presented at the panel meetings, and the deliberations of the panel in closed sessions were all considered in the development of this Phase I report.