Guide to The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program

The Women, Infants, and Children program, also known as WIC, serves to promote the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5. WIC assists families that are at nutritional risk, by providing nutritious foods, resources, and information on healthy eating. They also provide referrals and promote breastfeeding for women.

Established in 1972 by the United States Department of Agriculture, WIC provides Federal grants to each state to aid women and children in need. The program is available in all 50 states, including 34 Indian Tribal Organizations. As of 2014, the number of women, infants, and children receiving WIC benefits reached approximately 8.3 million. Participants receive vouchers to use at their local supermarkets and shops. There is currently over 46,000 merchants who accept WIC vouchers.

Although this list is not exclusive, here is a list of basic foods you can buy with WIC vouchers. Vouchers will have the product name and size printed on it. As an example, Beech-Nut, any grain 16 oz., you will pick up the item and bring it to the cashier who will process the voucher.

  • Cereal
    • Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Honey Bunches of Oats.
    • Cream of Wheat, Malt-O-Meal, Quaker Oats
  • Whole Wheat Bread and Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat Soft Corn Tortillas
  • Peanut Butter
  • Dry Beans and Lentils
  • Juice
    • Welch’s, Dole, Tree Top, V8, Juicy Juice
  • Milk, Cheese, and Eggs
  • Baby Formula
    • Beech-Nut, Gerber MultiGrain

Due to merchant contracts, every state has their own list of approved products. When you visit your caseworker, they will provide you with an approved product list. It is important to note that WIC participants support the local economy through their purchases. Therefore it is a win-win for the community and participants.

Who Qualifies?

If you are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, or have a child up to age 5, you may qualify. Each state has their own income requirements. You will have to meet a State residency requirement and be determined a nutritional risk. You would also have to fall at, or below 185 percent of the U.S poverty guideline. Below is the Income Eligibility Guideline for 2016-2017.

Family SizeAnnuallyMonthlyWeekly
Family of 1$21,978$1,832$423
Family of 2$29,637$2,470$570
Family of 3$37,296$3,108$718
Family of 4$44,955$3,747$865
Family of 5$52,614$4,385$1,012

Although you may use the above chart as a basis for income eligibility, if you are already receiving other state benefits for example TANF, Food Stamps or Medicaid, you may automatically qualify.

What is Nutritional Risk?

To qualify for WIC, you must be considered a “nutritional risk”. The two types below are considered eligible by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

  • Medically Based Risks
    • Women of maternal age being underweight or anemic
    • Women with a history of pregnancy complications or poor pregnancy outcomes.
    • Pregnant women with diabetes
  • Diet Based Risks
    • Low income resulting in poor nutritional choices
    • Inadequate dietary patterns due to living arrangements or other risks

What Does WIC Provide?

In most states, WIC participants will receive checks or vouchers every month to purchase food. They shouldn’t be confused with food stamps. They are only used to buy specific brands and food items. For example, WIC can cover infant cereal, peanut butter, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, dried and canned beans, and canned fish. Soy-based beverages, tofu, fruits and vegetables, baby foods, whole-wheat bread, and other whole-grain products. Click to learn what other products are eligible by the USDA.

WIC has been shown to provide a wide range of benefits, including longer, safer pregnancies resulting in fewer premature births and infant deaths. Improving maternal overall health. Overall improvement of school performance for children receiving the benefit have also been noted.

WIC Infant Formula Rebate System

WIC promotes breastfeeding. They encourage women to learn the benefits of breastfeeding their newborns if possible. If it’s not an option, WIC provides infant formula to mothers. WIC is required by law to have competitive manufacturing bids on infant formula. In exchange, WIC provides participants vouchers of that formula exclusively.

WIC Farmers Market

The WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides additional vouchers to be used at farmers markets. Their participants can get fresh fruits and vegetables, which is used to promote the buying of fresh fruits and vegetables for healthy living.

How To Apply

The Women, Infants, and Children Program  is provided on the Federal level. However, the individual States make the determination of who qualifies. To apply, you can locate your State agency by visiting their website. Each website is filled with lots of useful information on how to apply, as well as other nutritional resources.

Your first step is to make an appointment. You can also call their Toll-Free number  to ask any questions or make an appointment over the phone. They will give you information on what documents to bring and requirements. They also have a useful online prescreening tool that can help you determine if you are eligible.

General Eligibility:

  • Must be pregnant or
  • Have had a baby within the last 6 months
  • Have a child/foster child under 5 years of age
  • Provide proof if you receive TANF, Food Stamps or Medicaid (You may automatically qualify)
  • You must provide proof of identity
    • Proof of residency (Current utility bill or lease)
    • Proof of pregnancy (doctor’s letter) or child’s birth certificate

There may be other documents required, so it is important that you contact your local agency to get a full list before going to your appointment. Not having the correct documents may delay the process or automatically deny you benefits.

In Cowhat is the WIC programnclusion

Keep in mind that WIC is a temporary program. It is intended to provide nutritional foods to moms and their children as well as educate parents on the importance of having a nutritional balance. If you are breastfeeding or intend to breastfeed your newborn, WIC provides training and referrals as well as health screenings, nutrition counseling, and substance abuse referrals. Studies show that women who use WIC have lower medical costs, this is a step in the right direction on fighting diabetes, childhood obesity and malnutrition.