Applying For California WIC
California WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is handled by the California Department of Public Health. They are responsible for determing the eligibility requirements, application process and are in charge of providing the benefits and services to WIC participants. The California WIC program aims to protect the health of low income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are at a nutritional risk. This is done through WIC approved nutritious foods you can purchase using paper vouchers/checks, or in some states your WIC EBT card.
Nutrition Risk Requirements
Anyone who applies for California WIC benefits must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist. They must determine whether the applicant is at a nutrition risk. In most cases, this can be done at a local WIC clinic at no cost to the applicant. However, if need be, this information can be obtained from another health professional such as the applicants doctor. Being a nutrition risk means that an individual has a medical-based or dietary-based condition.
For medical-based condition it could be anemia, underweight or a history of poor pregnacy outcome. For a dietary-based condition, this could include having a poor diet. At a minimum, the applicant's height and weight must be taken and bloodwork drawn up to check for anemia. An applicant must have at least one of the medical or dietary conditions listed on the state's list of WIC nutrition risk criteria.
Before applying for the CA WIC program, you can see if you are potentially eligible through the online Prescreening Tool. Please note, this tool is not considered an application. You still need to follow the application process for this state. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The California WIC program provides:
- Practical nutrition information and everyday healthy living tips for you and your family
- Nutrition experts who specialize in nutrition for mothers and their children
- Support and information about breastfeeding your baby, including access to breastfeeding experts
- Help in finding health care and other valuable community services
- Special checks to buy healthy foods
California WIC Eligibility
In order to qualify for benefits you must meet the California WIC Income Guidelines and be in any of the categories listed below:
- A pregnant woman
- A woman breastfeeding a baby under 1 year of age
- A woman who had a baby or was pregnant in the past 6 months
- A baby up to his or her first birthday
- A child up to his or her fifth birthday
If you currently receive Medi-Cal, CalWORKS, TANF, CalFresh or SNAP benefits, you may already qualify for California WIC. Babies and children who are cared for by their fathers, guardians or foster parents are eligible for CA WIC. Working families and migrant families are welcome to apply at any time.
To start the California WIC application process, you need to call your local WIC agency and schedule an appointment.
California WIC Appointment
You need to bring the following information with you to your first appointment:
- Each person who will be enrolling into the WIC program
- Proof of identification
- Proof of residency
- Proof of income
At your first WIC appointment you should expect the staff to give you a review of the California WIC program services and benefits. There will be an individualized Nutrition Assessment for each qualifying member of your family to determine a nutrition risk, one of the main qualifiers when applying for CA WIC benefits.
Research has shown that breast milk is the best food for the baby's first year of life. Breastfeeding provides many health, nutritional and economical benefits to mother and baby. Since a major goal of the California WIC program is to improve the nutritional status of infants, CA WIC encourages participating mothers to choose breastfeeding in the following ways:
- Mothers are provided with breastfeeding information and support
- Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in California WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers
- Mothers who exclusively breastfeed receive a larger amount and variety of foods
- Mothers can receive a pump and other breastfeeding items if needed to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding
Length of WIC Participation
California WIC is considered a short-term program. A participate "graduates" at the end of one or more of their certification periods. A certification period is the length of time a CA WIC participate is eligible to receive benefits. Depending on the persons condition, either pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant or child, an eligible person usually receives benefits from 6 months to a year, at which time they are required to re-apply.
The WIC Waiting List
In some situations, WIC agencies may not have enough financial backing to serve everyone who qualifies for the California WIC program or those who call to apply. At this point, the WIC agencies must keep a list that is referred to as the "waiting list". It contains all of the individuals who want to apply for the California WIC program and are likely to be served. From there, the WIC agencies use a special system called a "Priority System". Based on conditions like most serious health conditions (anemia, underweight, pregnancy problems), this system will determine who will be served next to receive CA WIC benefits. There are 7 priorities used in this priority system, the details for each priority and how they are determined are listed below.
The following applicants with nutrition-related medical conditions such as anemia, underweight, overweight or pre-term birth:
- Pregnant Women
- Breastfeeding Women
Infants up to 6 months of age whose mothers participated in WIC or could have participated and had nutrition-related medical conditions.
Children with nutrition-related medical conditions.
The following applicants with dietary problems, for example a poor diet:
- Pregnant Women
- Breastfeeding Women
Children with dietary problems, for example a poor diet.
Postpartum (non-breastfeeding) women with nutrition related-medical conditions or dietary problems.
Current WIC participants who without providing the WIC supplemental foods could continue to have medical and/or dietary problems.
Please note, state agencies can decide to place homeless and migrant participants in Priorities 5 through 7. At the state agencies option, postpartum women may be placed in Priorities 3 through 5. Any priority can be subdivided into subcategories of risk, using factors such as income or age.
WIC Participants who are Moving
If you are receiving California WIC benefits and are moving from one area or state to another, then you will be placed at the top of a waiting list when you move and are also served first when the WIC agency can serve more individuals. While moving, you can still continue to receive your benefits until your certification period expires as long as there is proof that you are receiving WIC benefits in another area or state. Before you move, you need to contact your local WIC clinic and let them know.
In most cases the staff will give you a special card, Verification of Certification Card (VOC), which will prove that you are receiving WIC benefits. After you do move, you will then need to call the WIC clinic in your new area to schedule an appointment. When attending your appointment, make sure to take the VOC card that was given to you to show proof that you were participating in the CA WIC program.
If you still have questions or issues about the program, then you can contact your local California WIC program that manages these benefits and services.