The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is one of several United States’ welfare programs that are administered at the state level. The program was first established in 1972 as a pilot program and became permanent in 1974. WIC provides federal grants to states for low-income women who are pregnant or have children up to the age of five that are found to be at nutritional risk.
With these grants, states are able to provide supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education to those who qualify. WIC’s target population includes pregnant women, breast-feeding women, non-breast-feeding postpartum women, infants and children up to the age of five.
This program is administered at the federal level by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as on the state and local level. There are 90 WIC state agencies and 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites. WIC services are provided in such places like county health departments, hospitals, community centers and schools.
The majority of state WIC programs provide recipients with vouchers that can be used at authorized food stores. WIC is considered a short-term program, meaning a participant receives benefits for a certain certification period. These typically last from six months to a year, after which the participant must re-apply. There are four main eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to qualify for the WIC program: categorical, residential, income and nutrition risk. In order to apply for WIC benefits, you must contact your state or local WIC agency to get started on the application process.
1. What does the WIC program consider “nutritional risk”?
The WIC program recognizes two types of nutritional risk: medically-based (anemia, underweight, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications) and diet-based risks. These are determined by a health professional, and this health screening is free to program applicants.
2. What foods can be purchased with WIC vouchers?
WIC-eligible foods include the following: infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried and canned beans/peas, and canned fish. Recently, soy-based beverages, tofu, fruits and vegetables, baby foods, whole-wheat bread, and other whole-grain options were recently added.
3. Are there other food options under WIC?
Yes. In 1992, the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) was established. This provides additional coupons to WIC participants so that they can buy fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets.
4. How can I find a WIC Agency near me?
The easiest way to find a local WIC Agency is to call 1-800-TEL-LINK (1-800-835-5465). You can also contact your local health department.
5. Do I have to pay to receive WIC benefits?
No. Should you qualify, WIC services are provided for free. Remember, the program is considered short-term with a particular certification period.
How to Apply for WIC
The most important thing to remember when you go to apply for WIC is that the application process varies from state to state. Thus, in order to find out exactly what you must do in order to submit your WIC application, contact your county’s health department directly and ask for the specific procedures associated with applying. Most state health departments even provide toll-free phone numbers to help their residents locate the closest agency and set up an appointment for the WIC application.
While the documents necessary to apply for WIC benefits vary based on the given state of residence, most health departments require applicants to provide all of the following when they walk in for their appointment:
· Proof of your identity, such as a driver’s license
· Proof of your residency in the state, such as your utility bill or a mortgage contract
· Proof of your income, such as pay stubs from your place of employment
o Individuals who are currently enrolled in Medicaid, Food Stamps or TANF are automatically income-eligible and need only provide proof of their enrollment in their applicable program.
After providing the necessary documents to the state health representative, you will be evaluated for nutritional risk, which is the main factor when it comes to determining eligibility for WIC.
Eligibility for WIC
There are four requirements that all WIC applicants must meet in order to receive the benefits of the program. They must have the proper income, residency status, nutritional risk, and they must fall into a certain category. Concerning categories, only infants, children who have not yet reached their fifth birthday and women (pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum) are categorically eligible for WIC. As for the other factors, the breakdown of requirements is as follows:
· Income: If an applicant does not currently receive Medicaid, Food Stamps or TANF benefits, he or she must have an income that is at or below the level established by the state.
· Residency: For a WIC application to be accepted, the applicant must live in the state in which he or she is applying.
· Nutritional Risk: The final step in determining one’s eligibility for WIC is to have a licensed physician, nurse or nutritionist decide whether or not a candidate is at nutritional risk.
Where WIC Services Are Provided
WIC benefits are provided all over the state to a number of different groups of people, including pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, nonbreastfeeding postpartum women, infants and children under the age of five. As for where these benefits are given, they can be seen at any of the following locations:
· County health departments
· Community centers
· Migrant health centers
· Public Housing locations
· Van clinics (mobile)
· Indian Health Service locations