WIC, the Women, Infants, and Children program, provides Federal grants that allow states to offer supplemental food, health care referrals and more for low-income women who are pregnant, nursing, or post-partum and their children up to age 5.
What Is the Women, Infants, and Children Program?
WIC, a program of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) aims to ensure that women and their infants and children—who, because of low income are at nutrition risk (that is, may not be able to afford the types and range of food that would provide them with a healthy pregnancy diet are supported through supplementary food, nutritional information so that they can make educated dietary choices, and health care referrals.
WIC was established as a pilot program in 1972 and became permanent in 1974. Originally known as the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children, its name was changed in 1994. Grants based on a yearly appropriation by Congress, are made to the 50 states, American Samoa, Commonwealth Islands of the Northern Marianas, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and 34 Indian Tribal organizations.
At the state level, most programs provide vouchers for specific food items that can be used at food stores that have received authorization. The food supplements are specified by four categories: children aged 1 to 4; pregnant women who are also partially breastfeeding up to 1 year postpartum; women who are postpartum (up to 6 months), but not breastfeeding; women who are fully breastfeeding up to 1 year postpartum.
Food packages include designated amounts of the following foods (although not all foods are provided for all categories):
- Milk or soy substitute and/or infant formula
- Breakfast cereal
- Cheese (for fully breastfeeding women only)
- A voucher amount for purchasing fruits and vegetables
- Whole wheat bread
- Canned fish (for fully breastfeeding women only)
- Dry legumes and/or peanut butter
To be eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children program, the applicant must have an income that is at or less than 185% of the United States Poverty Income Guidelines. The current figure is $40,793 for a family of four people. Those who are eligible for Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are automatically income eligible. The other part of the eligibility requirements include state residency and be ascertained by a health professional to be “at nutrition risk.”
State WIC Programs
In implementing WIC, states and other grant recipients may provide their citizens with a range of information and services, including resources on breastfeeding, immunization, farmer’s markets, nutrition education information, and other data and information. In places where there is a population with a native language other than English, the state or other organization may provided translations of materials suitable for its population. For example, at the WIC website for the state of California, WIC materials are provided in Spanish (en Español) as well as in English.