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The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has provided nutritional assistance and education to low-income malnourished mothers and children for nearly 50 years.
Lately, posts on social media are circulating that claim the program was actually created by the Black Panthers.
The posts say, "Never forget WIC ‘women, infant and child’ was created by black panthers to help feed single mothers and their children in their communities." It features a photo of Bobby Seale, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, standing among rows of paper grocery bags.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The claim that the Black Panther Party created the federal program made its way around the internet a few years ago, and appears to link it to the group’s free breakfast program.
While it is possible the Panthers’ breakfast program may have helped inspire WIC, or other similar federal programs, the two are not one in the same. There is also no evidence that the party operated a program called WIC, or something similar.
The federal government created WIC in 1972 as an amendment to the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Hubert Humphrey and it was initially funded as a two-year pilot program. In 1975, legislation established WIC as a permanent national health and nutrition program.
The motivation behind WIC has long been credited to various studies throughout the 1960s that identified malnutrition as a major national problem.
The 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health, reported that hunger and poverty existed on a "disgraceful scale" in the United States and recommended that special attention be given to the nutritional needs of low-income pregnant women and preschool children.
The Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children Program started in the group’s Oakland headquarters in 1969 and quickly expanded to party outposts nationwide, feeding thousands of children per day. Party members and volunteers reportedly went to local grocery stores to ask for donations, consulted with nutritionists on healthy breakfast options for children, and then prepared and served the food.
The government’s 1966 Child Nutrition Act (that WIC was added to later on as an amendment) also established the pilot School Breakfast Program, which provided low-cost or free breakfasts to children in public schools. This was in operation three years before the Panthers’ breakfast program began.
Social media posts claim the Black Panther Party created the federal nutritional assistance program WIC.
The party did run many community initiatives, including its successful Free Breakfast for Children Program.
While some believe the effort may have inspired the federal government to make its school breakfast program permanent, and by extension WIC as well, there is no evidence that the party created or ran WIC.
The statement is not accurate. We rate it False.
Facebook post, Feb. 26, 2019
WIC Association, WIC Program Overview and History, Accessed March 1, 2019
History.com, How the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program Both Inspired and Threatened the Government, Accessed March 1, 2019
Government Publishing Office, PUBLIC LAW 94-105, Oct. 7, 1975
White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, September 1969
USDA, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Accessed March 1, 2019
USDA, Child Nutrition Act of 1966, Accessed March 1, 2019
Snaptohealth, History of WIC, Accessed March 4, 2019
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