The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is a governmental program offering nutritional support and education for women who are new mothers or for women who are pregnant.
Though this program women and children determined to be at-risk nutritionally are given supplemental assistance, often in conjunction with a food stamp program, to ensure access to higher quality food items.
Not everyone qualifies for WIC, but unlike many other supplemental programs, you can receive aid from WIC in conjunction with a number of other programs at the same time.
To qualify you must meet certain requirements for income, have a referral from a recommending medical or health agency or already participate in Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
The following information offers a concise overview of the program’s expectations, what the supplemental aid consists of and how long you receive WIC assistance, once qualified.
What does WIC offer?
WIC operates much like the SNAP, or food stamp program, in your state. You receive vouchers or an EBT card. Use these vouchers or cards at participating grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
Not all items in a grocery or farmer’s market are items covered by the program. Non-food items are not covered, nor are ready-made meals, such as those you purchase from the deli or a restaurant. If you have certain dietary restrictions, you can work with a WIC caseworker to make sure all your food needs are covered.
A sampling of allowed foods includes the following items:
- Fortified cereal.
- Infant cereal.
- Peanut butter.
- Canned goods.
Who Qualifies for WIC?
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have a new baby or a child under five years of age, and are considered at nutritional risk, you qualify. If you are not sure if you qualify, it is still worth turning in an application since there is no cost to do so.
Each state uses the same guidelines, but the exact numbers may vary depending on where you are located. This is due to each state having a different cost of living, which in turn changes the requirements to qualify as low-income.
WIC is offered through most health and medical buildings and clinics, but are also offered in participating community centers, public housing sites, schools and migrant health centers or camps. To learn if you may qualify make an appointment at any of your local agencies.
If you are not sure where your area’s office is, go to your state’s directory for SNAP (they are housed under the same department). Use the toll-free number to set up a time to speak with a WIC caseworker about receiving assistance and obtaining a medical examination.
Learn About the 4 Category Requirements for WIC
WIC requires applicants to meet specific requirements in four areas. These are:
- Categorical. To qualify in this area, you must be a woman, pregnant, or have just given birth. You also meet this qualification if you are six months postpartum or are breastfeeding (or have been for up to a year). Infants and young children also qualify, even if you as the mother do not.
- Income. Your income must be below or just at the income level set by your state agency. Most state’s income standards are between 100 percent of the federal poverty guidelines but may be up to 185. The income guidelines for 2019 are available for viewing online.
- Residential. You must live in the area where you apply. Applicants cannot go to the next county over and apply. However, you can move to an area and then apply, as there are no restrictions on how long you must have lived in an area.
- Nutritional risk. To receive WIC, it must be determined you are nutritionally at-risk. This can only be verified by a health professional and is done at no cost to you.
Many applicants become confused at the term “nutritionally at-risk”. The state’s definition considers someone at-risk nutritionally if he or she exhibits medical conditions brought about by a poor diet. For example, if it is found you are underweight and anemic you are considered at-risk nutritionally.
This is generally determined with a simple blood test and health examination. The examination also has a practical purpose, since it gives doctors a chance to customize a healthy diet to match your nutritional needs.
Learn About the WIC Pre-Screening Tool
If you are uncertain whether you qualify for WIC assistance you can use the free prescreening tool to check your eligibility. After going through the pre-screening tool, if you qualify, the program gives you contact information for your state’s WIC agency, and you are given information about how to make an appointment.
You can print out the summary of the pre-screening tool to take with you. WIC is not a program you can apply for online because of the mandatory nutritional checkup requirement.
Learn About the WIC Certification Visit
When you schedule your appointment to be examined you must bring each family member who is going to receive WIC services. This includes your young children. You must also bring your proof of income, not only for yourself, but for all adults living with you in the home. Income includes the following:
- Child support
- Foster care payment
- Unemployment benefits
- Military pay or benefits
While electronic versions of these documents are acceptable, you may not take a picture of them with your phone and send them in. Additionally, if you are working and receive payment weekly, then you must bring all four pay stubs you receive for the month.
If just once a month, then bring the one pay stub. Any other government assistance benefits must also be declared when applying. To do this, bring the original copy of the “Notice of Case Action” letter for verification.
You must also bring a document proving your residence in the area. Most applicants use a utility bill, driver’s license or a bank statement. The document you provide must have your full name on it as well as the mailing address.
Additional documentation is required to prove your identity, and that of our children. This can include a birth certificate, driver’s license, military ID or a Social Security Card.
If you received a referral from your doctor, then he or she filled out a WIC Medical Referral Form. Bring this with you as well. If available, bring your children’s immunization records (shot records).