WIC Frequently Asked Questions
This page provides a list of frequently asked questions about the WIC program. If you did not find the answer you were looking for, then we suggest to contact your local WIC clinic for further assistance.
What is WIC?
WIC was established as a permanent program in 1974 to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk. This mission is carried out by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and referrals to health and other social services.
How can the WIC program help?
WIC supplemental foods have shown to provide wide ranging benefits. They include:
- Longer, safer pregnancies, with fewer premature births and infant deaths
- Improved dietary outcomes for infants and children
- Improved maternal health
- Improved performance at school, among others
In addition to health benefits, WIC participants showed significant savings in healthcare costs when compared to non-participants.
Who is eligible for WIC benefits?
The following people are eligible to apply for WIC benefits in their state:
- Pregnant women
- Postpartum women
- Breastfeeding women
- Children up to age 5
They must meet the income guidelines, a state residency requirement, and be individually determined to be at nutritional risk by a health professional. To be eligible on the basis of income, applicant's gross income must fall at or below 185% of the US Poverty Income Guidelines. View the WIC Income Guidelines in your state.
State residency requirement
Applicants must live in the state in which they apply. Applicants served in areas where WIC is administered by an Indian Tribal Organization (ITO) must meet residency requirements established by the ITO. At State agency option, applicants may be required to live in a local service area and apply at a WIC clinic that serves that area. Applicants are not required to live in the state or local service area for a certain amount of time in order to meet the WIC residency requirement.
Being a nutritional risk
Two major types of nutritional risk are recognized for WIC eligibility:
This is considered as a high priority. This includes risks such as anemia, underweight, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications, or poor pregnancy outcomes.
This includes risks such as inadequate dietary pattern.
Nutritional risk is determined at your first appointment when applying for WIC benefits in your state. This is done by a health professional such as a physician, nutritionist, or nurse, and is based on Federal guidelines. This health screening is free to program applicants.
I'm eligible for WIC benefits, what do I do next?
Those who are interested in applying for benefits should check out the states WIC application process. In most states you would need to contact your local WIC clinic and schedule an appointment, where they will determine if you are eligible. Applicants will be advised on what to bring to the appointment in order to verify eligibility.
Can You Buy Diapers with WIC?
No. Currently you cannot use your WIC benefits to purchase diapers, pet food, cigarettes or alcohol.
What food benefits does WIC provide to their partipants?
In most states, WIC provides checks or vouchers that allows WIC participants to purchase WIC approved foods at their local grocery store. The foods picked are designed to supplement their diets with specific nutrients that benefit WIC’s target population. Some states have moved over or in the process of moving over to the eWIC system.
This replaces checks and vouchers with a WIC EBT (Electronic benefit transfer) Card. When purchasing food, instead of handing the cashier your checks or vouchers, you would hand them your WIC EBT card and they will swipe it like a regular debit or credit card. From there, their POS system will deduct the amount from your current WIC balance. Also, instead of having to visit your local WIC clinic each month to receive new WIC checks or vouchers, your WIC EBT Card will be automatically refilled electronically. All states should be using the new eWIC system by the year 2020.
WIC foods include:
- Infant cereal
- Iron-fortified adult cereal
- Vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice
- Peanut butter
- Dried and canned beans/peas
- Canned fish
- Soy-based beverages
- Fruits and vegetables
- Baby foods
- Whole-wheat bread and other whole-grain options
WIC recognizes and promotes breastfeeding as the optimal source of nutrition for infants. For women who do not fully breastfeed, WIC provides iron-fortified infant formula. Special infant formulas and medical foods may be provided when prescribed by a physician for a specified medical condition.
Who gets priority when applying for WIC benefits?
If the WIC program cannot serve all eligible people who apply for benefits, a system of priorities is established for filling program openings. Once a local WIC agency has reached its maximum case load, vacanies are generally filled in the order of the following priority levels:
- Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants determined to be at nutritional risk because of serious medical problems
- Infants up to 6 months of age whose mothers participated in WIC or could have participated and had serious medical problems
- Children (up to age 5) at nutritional risk because of serious medical problems
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women and infants at nutritional risk because of dietary problems (like poor diet)
- Children (up to age 5) at nutritional risk because of dietary problems
- Non-breastfeeding, postpartum women with any nutritional risk
- Individuals at nutritional risk only because they are homeless or migrants, and current participants who without WIC foods could continue to have medical and/or dietary problems
I am moving, what happens with my WIC benefits?
WIC participants who move from one area or state to another are placed at the top of a waiting list when they move and are also served first when the WIC agency can serve more individuals. WIC participants who move can continue to receive WIC benefits until their certification period expires as long as there is proof that the individual received WIC benefits in another area or state.
Before a participant moves, they should tell the WIC office. In most cases, WIC staff will give the participant a special card, Verification of Certification (VOC), which proves that the individual participated in the WIC program. When the individual moves, they can call the new WIC office for an appointment and take the VOC card to the WIC appointment in the new area or state.
How can I see if Im eligible for WIC benefits?
Before setting up your appointment to apply for WIC benefits in your state, there is a WIC Prescreening Tool. It is a web-based application intended to help potential WIC applicants determine if they are likely to be eligible for WIC benefits. Users who are likely to be eligible to receive WIC benefits are provided with state-specific contact information and are encouraged to make a certification appointment with their WIC local agencies.
Additionally, users are provided with a printable summary of their responses and a list of examples of the documentation that is required at an initial certification appointment. Check the WIC Prescreening Tool to find out if you might be eligible for WIC benefits in your state.