WIC (also called ‘The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women’) is a program designed to serve certain categories of women, infants and children. It was created to safeguard the health of the economically disadvantaged for children up to the age of 5. It provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, information and resources on healthy eating habits and referrals to health care to children who might be at nutrition risk.
WIC provides federal grants to states to provide for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, non- breastfeeding postpartum women and infants and children who are found to be at risk.
Most states will provide their participants with vouchers that can be used at authorized food stores. It is estimated that there are a total of approximately 46,000 merchants nationwide that accept WIC vouchers.
Part 1 – Eligibility Priority System
Sometimes local WIC agencies don’t have enough resources to serve everyone that is in need of help. When this happens, they will create a “waiting list” of people who want to apply and likely meet the requirements.
When funding becomes available, the agency will use a “Priority System” to determine who gets benefits first. The purpose of this priority system is to make sure that WIC services and benefits are given to applicants with the most serious health conditions.
- Priority I – Pregnant women, Breastfeeding women and infants with nutrition related medical conditions such as anemia, underweight, overweight or pre-term birth.
- Priority II – Infants (up to 6 months) whose mother participated in the WIC program and had nutrition related medical condition.
- Priority III – Children with nutrition related medical conditions.
- Priority IV – Infants, pregnant or breastfeeding women who have dietary problems, such as poor eating habits.
- Priority V – Children with poor eating habits.
- Priority VI – Postpartum (non breastfeeding) women with nutrition related medical conditions or poor eating habits.
- Priority VII – Current WIC clients who would continue to have poor eating habits without being provided WIC supplemental foods.
Part 2 – Meeting the Requirements
a) Residential Requirements: You must live in the state that you are applying for assistance. You are not required to live in the state for a certain period of time in order to meet the WIC residency requirements.
b) Income Requirements: In order to eligible for WIC, applicants must have an income at or below the income standard set by the state agency. This may also be calculated automatically based on the applicant’s participation in certain programs.
- Income Standard – The income standard must be between 100% and 185% of the Federal poverty guidelines. These are issued yearly by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
- Automatic Income Eligibility – You may be determined as income eligible for WIC based on your participation in certain programs. You must be:
- Eligible to receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid, and/or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
- Applying in which you have family members that are eligible to receive TANF or Medicaid
- Eligible to participate in certain other state-administered programs.
c) Nutrition Risk Requirements: You must be screened by a health professional, such as a doctor, nurse or nutrition, who must certify that you are at nutritional risk. This is typically performed in a WIC clinic at no cost to the applicant. However, you do have the option of seeking this from your personal physician. Nutrition risk is defined as a person that has a medically based or dietary based condition. This includes, but is not limited to, anemia (low blood levels), underweight, or a history of at risk pregnancies. A dietary based condition can be defined as poor eating habits. Your height and weight will be measured and your blood will be checked for anemia during the certification process.
Part 3 – How To Apply For WIC
1) You must apply for WIC at a local community health department. Please visit this website: Toll-Free Numbers for State agencies to find your state agency. State contact information can be found at State agency contact information. http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/contacts.
A one on one interview is a major requirement to be considered. You must bring with you:
a) Proof of residency
b) Proof of income
c) Identification card
2) Call the nearest clinic and request an appointment to apply for benefits. You will be told when your appointment is scheduled and what documents you need to bring. You must be present during the appointment.
3) Be sure to collect all of your documents prior to your appointment. This includes:
a) Pay stubs
b) Social service statements
c) Social Security payments
d) Driver’s license
e) Birth certificates for each applicant
f) Utility bills
g) Copy of your lease to verify residency
4) Always arrive earlier than your scheduled appointment time. You can begin to complete your application before you are seen by the caseworker. This will shorten your appointment time.
5) You must include the names, birthdays and social security numbers of all applicants as well as any sources of income when completing your application. Incomplete or falsifying information may result in your disqualification.
6) When your name (or number) is called, give the requested paperwork to your caseworker. She (or he) will review your application and documents to make sure everything is accurate and complete.
7) You must agree to the required medical examination. This will be performed by a WIC clinic doctor or nurse. It will let your caseworker know if you or any of your family members are undernourished or have any other nutrition related health issues.
8) Wait for the clinic to send notice of approval or denial. This is usually within 30 days. If you are approved, you will receive instructions on how to use WIC benefits and information on when you can expect your first vouchers to arrive.
Other Food Assistance Programs
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP) – This is a federally assisted meal program that operates in public, non-profit private schools and residential child care facilities. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp.
- Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) – This is a special supplemental nutrition program associated with the Women’s, Infants and Childrens (WIC) program. It provides fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants. http://www.fns.usda.gov/fmnp/wic-farmers-market-nutrition-program-fmnp.
- Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – This is a federal program that helps to supplement the diet of low-income Americans. This program provides Americans, including the elderly, with emergency food and nutrition assistance at no cost. http://www.fns.usda.gov/tefap/emergency-food-assistance-program-tefap.
A Final Word
WIC is a short term program. Participants will “graduate” at the end of one or more certification periods. That is defined as the length of time you will be eligible to receive benefits.
WIC benefit periods are normally from 6 months to a year. This depends on whether you are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant, a child or an eligible individual. After your certification period ends, you must reapply for benefits.
If you move during your certification period, you should inform your local WIC office. In most cases, you will be given a special card to present to your new location that proves you are a participant in the WIC program.