The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — better known as the WIC Program is a very successful federal-funded initiative.
Its mission is to provide free support to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and post-partum women and children under age five who are considered to be at nutritional risk.
The program does this by providing healthy foods to supplement diets, healthcare referrals, and information regarding healthy eating.
WIC is funded through cash grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to WIC State agencies and administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
Since more funding is available for this program than many others of its kind, it is often easier for single mothers to qualify for WIC benefits.
According to the latest available data, of the 9.3 million people who received WIC benefits each month in 2014, over half (53.3%) were children (ages 1-4), 23% were infants, and 23.6% were women.1
Whites are the largest group of WIC participants (58.7%) followed by Blacks or African Americans (20.3%), American Indians or Alaskan Natives (11.1%), and Asian (4.1%).
Am I eligible for WIC?
To be eligible on the basis of income, your gross income, i.e. before taxes are withheld, must be less than or equal to 185% of the Poverty Income Guidelines2 and at least one nutrition risk has to be documented.
Applicants must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist who must determine whether the individual is indeed at nutrition risk. In many cases, this health screening is done at no cost to the applicant.
Those who are eligible to receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) automatically meet the income eligibility requirement.
The WIC Prescreening Tool is often used to determine if you’re be eligible for WIC benefits. This online tool might ask you to enter the amounts of your household’s earned (wages, tips, etc.) and unearned income (child support, unemployment benefits, SSI, etc.).
How Do I Apply for WIC?
To apply for WIC, you need to contact a local WIC office or call the toll-free number3 to set up an appointment where the representative will tell you the location nearest your home and what documents you need to bring with you.
Recipients usually receive aid in the form of checks or vouchers 4 that can be used at designated food stores buy foods — milk, eggs, cereal, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, etc, — each of these helps keep pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies and children healthy and strong.
For women who do not fully breastfeed, iron-fortified infant formula will be provided for up to 6 months after the pregnancy ends.
WIC is designed as a short-term program, with eligible recipients usually receiving benefits for six (6) to twelve (12) months. At which time, you will need to reapply, if you wish to continue participating in the program.
If you move between states, you have the right to have your WIC transferred to a different district or a different state, as long as there is proof that you’re the recipient of WIC program in another state.
- USDA, WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2014
- Currently about $893 a week for a family of four. The guidelines for WIC are shown here.
- Toll-Free Numbers for WIC State Agencies / Números gratuitos de las agencias estatales
- Some States may issue electronic benefit card to participants instead of paper checks or vouchers.