WIC Data and Statistics

Early Childhood Obesity and Overweight

Overweight or obesity is defined as an excessively high body weight relative to height.  Body mass index (or BMI) is a measure used to compare weight to height.  In children, BMI is compared to children of the same age and sex, using CDC growth charts to determine the BMI percentile-for-age and sex.  

Children who have obesity are at a higher risk of: Type 2 Diabetes, breathing problems (such as asthma or sleep apnea), and having obesity as an adult.

toddler among fruits and veggies

A child is classified as obese, overweight, normal or healthy weight, or underweight.

  • Obese (BMI above 95th percentile)
  • Overweight (BMI above 85th percentile but below 95th percentile)
  • Normal or Healthy Weight (BMI above 5th percentile but below 85th percentile)
  • Underweight (BMI below 5th percentile)

The WIC program provides nutritious food, education, and services to about 4 million children under the age of 5.  WIC services have been shown to have positive results in promoting healthy weight and nutritionally-balanced diets for its child participants.

little girl with plate of veggies

According to the most recent State of Childhood Obesity published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the rate of obesity among children aged 2 to 4 years enrolled in WIC has declined. 

In 2018, 14.4% of 2 to 4 year WIC children had obesity, down from 15.9% in 2010.  State obesity rates ranged from 8.5% to 20.2%.

Among children aged 2 to 4 years enrolled in Tennessee WIC, about 1 in 3 (31.9%) were considered to be overweight or have obesity in 2021. In 2021,19.7% of WIC children had a BMI above the 95th percentile compared to 18.4% in 2020.

little girl eating vegetables

Higher obesity rates were noted for:

  • Boys (20.4%) vs. girls (19.0%)
  • 3-year olds (21.7%) compared with 2-year olds (19.4%) and 4-year olds (17.9%)
  • White children (20.2%) compared with Black children (18.3%) and children of other race (16.8%)

Obesity rates exceeded the state rate in 41 counties, and county-level obesity rates ranged from 7.1 percent to 41.3 percent.  Between 2017 and 2021, there was no statistically significant change in obesity among Tennessee WIC child participants.

WIC Overweight and Obesity: County-Level Estimate Table

The table below contains county-level estimates for Tennessee WIC children aged 2 to 4 years.  Use the box below to search for your county.  

Note: Estimates were suppressed for counties with small numbers and is denoted with "--".

Location WIC Children Overweight (%) WIC Children Obese (%)


Tennessee monitors overweight and obesity rates among children enrolled in the WIC program.  All rates are calculated using the WIC Data System and is based on a similar methodology used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS), which was discontinued in 2012.

Note: Estimates for 2021 were likely impacted by WIC COVID-19 Key Flexibilities Waivers (e.g. Physical Presence Waiver) granted by USDA Food and Nutrition Services.  In 2016, CDC modified the cut points for biologically implausible values (BIVs).  These changes did not affect the calculation of percentiles or subsequent calculation of overweight or obesity.