While the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federally funded program, state agencies set eligibility standards and local agencies handle applications.
There are 90 state agencies and 1,900 local agencies operating in 10,000 clinic sites that provide WIC services to eligible recipients. These WIC service locations can be found at local hospitals, mobile clinics and public housing sites. To receive benefits, applicants must make an appointment with their nearest state or local agency.
They will be advised to bring certain eligibility documents to complete their application. Applicants will also be required to attend a mandatory health screening. Those who are approved by the program can begin receiving their benefits the same day.
WIC participants will have access to a variety of benefits, including nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling, and screening and referrals to health and social services.
Can I apply for WIC online?
Unlike other government programs, the WIC application process cannot be completed online. In order to determine a family’s qualifications, an appointment must be made at a state or local WIC agency. However, many states allow applicants to fill out an initial application form online to begin the process.
This way, the office has all of the applicant’s information prior to his or her appointment. Additionally, there are some states that request that applicants complete an online pre-screening test to determine whether or not they meet WIC eligibility requirements.
While it is not required, this incentive allows the agencies and applicants to save their time and resources. Applicants who are deemed ineligible to not need to wait for a WIC appointment to find out they do not qualify for benefits. Keep in mind that just because an applicant may be qualified on the pre-screening application, this does not mean that he or she is approved for WIC benefits.
Online WIC forms typically ask for important identifying information, such as an applicant’s address and contact information. Furthermore, most forms ask whether an applicant has ever been previously enrolled in WIC and when is a good time to be contacted to schedule an appointment.
In addition to the initial application form, you can be expected to fill out a nutrition questionnaire for the category you belong to. If you are a postpartum or breastfeeding woman applying for WIC, be sure to fill out the questionnaire for yourself and your baby so you both receive WIC benefits.
Questions commonly asked on dietary questionnaires include how many times a week you east fast food and whether or not you take vitamins. You may also be asked when your baby’s last visit to the doctor was and whether you have concerns about your baby’s health.
If the initial application and nutrition questionnaires are not available online, you will be able to complete them at your scheduled WIC appointment.
What You Need To Apply for WIC
When scheduling your WIC appointment, you will most likely be told what documentation to bring to prove your eligibility. To be eligible for the WIC program, you must prove that you meet the categorical, residential, income and nutrition risk requirements.
You may need to provide pay stubs or bank statements to prove that you meet low-income requirements. Additionally, you may be asked to provide a medical report proving that you have at least one medical-based condition on your state’s list of nutrition risk criteria.
For example, a history of poor pregnancy outcome. It is important that you gather all necessary documentation prior to your appointment so that your case is reviewed by a WIC staff member.
- Proof of identity.
- Proof of income.
- Proof of residency.
- WIC referral form.
- Immunization records.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding what to bring to your first appointment, contact your local WIC office beforehand.
Learn About Your First WIC Appointment
It is highly recommended that you schedule your WIC appointment in advance by calling a WIC phone number. However, there are walk-in days and hours available where you can visit your local office with the proper paperwork.
You can find WIC offices serving your area on the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website. Simply select your state and pick your nearest location. Call the number listed to inquire about office hours.
Be sure to ask what times the office is accepting walk-ins and whether there is a cut-off time or a limit as to how many applicants can be seen.
You can expect your first appointment at the WIC clinic to take about two hours. To ensure a smooth and efficient process, be prepared with all of the forms and documentation that you are required to bring. Additionally, you must come to the appointment with every child you wish to obtain benefits for. If you are pregnant, a due date from a doctor should suffice.
At your appointment, you can expect a WIC staff member to:
- Review your WIC eligibility, including your income and the identity of the family members you brought.
- Ask questions about your dietary habits to determine which food package is suitable for you and your family. This is an important time to mention any food allergies you may have, such as lactose intolerance.
- Conduct a health screening if you do not already have a medical referral from your doctor. In this screening, you can expect staff to take your height, weight and complete blood work at no charge.
- Connect you with other resources offered by WIC, such as WIC training to prepare pregnant women for breastfeeding. You may also be referred to other government assistance programs, such as SNAP and TANF.
Upon leaving your WIC appointment, you will know whether or not you have been approved for benefits, as this is the final part of the enrollment process. If any other adult in your family would like to shop with benefits, he or she must be present to sign the certification documents.
You can expect to receive your benefits through a WIC EBT system, similar to the system used by SNAP to distribute food stamp benefits.