Learn About the WIC Program
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a government benefit program that aims to provide food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women. WIC also provides food assistance benefits to children and infants who are younger than five years of age. The WIC program is very similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides low-income beneficiaries with funds to purchase food for their household. However, participants of the Women, Infants and Children program will have additional limitations on the items that can be purchased using the program’s benefits. For example, participants of WIC are only permitted to purchase nutritious food products that will improve the health of the mother and children receiving benefits.
Beneficiaries are prohibited from purchasing and junk food or unhealthy food items because the primary goal of WIC is to improve the health and well-being of women and children. In order to reach this goal, the Women, Infants and Children program also provides additional resources and assistance in addition to the funds to purchase food. For example, WIC assistance includes nutritional education, breastfeeding support and referrals to other beneficial resources in the community. Over the years, the WIC program has successfully worked to reduce infant mortality rates and iron deficiencies while also increasing the birth weights and academic performance of children.
Find Out About the Basics of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program
Applicants are required to meet certain eligibility requirements in order to be approved to receive benefits from the WIC program. For example, all applicants are required to fit into the basic criteria of either being pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum women. Children must be younger than five years of age in order to qualify for WIC benefits. Applicants are also required to prove their state residency in order to qualify. To learn more about the eligibility requirements for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, download our comprehensive guide.
Furthermore, applicants to the WIC program are required to be at some sort of a nutritional risk while also meeting the WIC income requirements for eligibility. In order to gauge the health of applicants, a health screening will be conducted for a thorough evaluation. Applicants whose diets do not provide them with the adequate nutrition required to grow and function optimally will be eligible to receive WIC benefits.
Individuals or families who are interested in applying for WIC benefits are required to visit a WIC office in person. Applicants will be required to present certain documents as proof of their income and health during their initial appointment. They will also be required to undergo a health screening to check if they qualify. After the application, the WIC office will inform applicants if they were accepted into the program. Download our in-depth guide to learn more about the application process for WIC benefits.
After an application is accepted, the candidate must return to the WIC office to complete any required follow-up appointments. Generally, participants will be granted three months of WIC benefits during these meetings and they will undergo health screening at each subsequent appointment. Program participants will generally receive their WIC benefits as food or financial assistance to buy food. These benefits can be distributed using cash, vouchers or Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards.
What happens after you apply for WIC benefits?
Once an application has been submitted, the WIC office will notify individuals about whether or not they have been approved to receive benefits from the assistance program. Generally, applicants will receive the decision at the end of their WIC appointments, so they will not have to wait to be notified like many other assistance programs. In certain cases, WIC beneficiaries can begin to use their benefits immediately after their initial appointment.
In most cases, beneficiaries of the WIC program will receive their financial assistance through a government-issued EBT card. Funds from the WIC program are only permitted to be used on foods that are considered nutritious. Electronic Benefit Cards work just like traditional debit cards, except they have limitations on what they can be used to purchase. Program participants who lose their EBT card containing their WIC assistance can easily report the loss and apply for a replacement. In order to replace a lost EBT card, WIC participants can call their local WIC office or EBT customer service number to report the missing card. A replacement will be issued shortly after the initial report.
One of the most understated benefits of the WIC program is the participants have the option to transfer their benefits between different states. By completing an official WIC transfer form, participants can have their benefits transferred between states quickly and efficiently. WIC also provides services at a variety of locations in a community such as hospitals, churches, community centers and non-profit organizations. Participants in the WIC program should not be concerned about losing benefits if they move to a different state.
Learn About Additional Resources for WIC Participants
In addition to the financial assistance and nutritional education, the WIC program offers numerous supplementary benefits to participants. There are two WIC subprograms that are especially beneficial to participate in. These programs are the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System and the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP). These subprograms are designed to assist family members such as fathers, grandfathers or children older than five years of age who would not be eligible to receive benefits from the standard WIC program.
Participants in the WIC Infant Formula Rebate System will be allowed to purchase baby formulas for their infant using a WIC benefit voucher. Although families do not receive these rebates for themselves, it does allow them to access a wider range of formula choices to purchase using WIC benefits.
On the other hand, the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) offers beneficiaries additional WIC funds in order to purchase raw fruits, vegetables and herbs at local farmers’ markets. This program is beneficial because it allows WIC participants to access fresh, locally grown produce and food products using their benefits. Benefits for FMNP are generally distributed once a year on a first-come, first-served basis due to the limited funding available for the program.