The WIC program, also known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, is a federal program that provides grants to states so that they can provide impoverished residents with the nutrition they need to reach their full potential. Those who meet WIC eligibility requirements can receive a variety of benefits at their local WIC office, including supplemental foods and health care referrals. To receive these benefits, residents must learn how to apply for WIC in their states. Additionally, they must be aware of their state agency’s income eligibility requirements.
Depending on their state, residents may be able to complete the WIC application process through several different methods. However, most states require that residents make a WIC appointment at a nearby clinic to determine if they meet nutritional risk requirements. Furthermore, there are a variety of different program delivery methods that vary by state. While some residents may receive their food benefits directly to their homes, others will need to visit participating vendors and shop for approved foods. Review the following sections to learn more about how WIC programs vary by state.
Find Out WIC Requirements by State
WIC eligibility requirements are generally the same across all states, with the exception of income requirements. Federally, WIC income guidelines require that states set standards between 100 and 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Once these standards are set, applicants must have an income at or below their state’s income standard to qualify for the WIC program. This means that a household’s income may meet income eligibility requirements in one state and not the other. For example, Alabama is open to WIC participants whose incomes are at or below 185 percent.
Besides meeting WIC income guidelines, applicants must be residents of their states to receive WIC benefits. A resident of Delaware cannot apply for the WIC program in Texas. Furthermore, there is no amount of time that an applicant must reside in a state before he or she is able to complete the WIC application steps. If an applicant moves to North Carolina from Montana, for example, he or she can apply for WIC as soon as possible. Other WIC eligibility requirements include meeting the categorical and nutritional risk requirements. WIC applicants must be:
- Pregnant women.
- Postpartum women.
- Breastfeeding women.
- Infants younger than one year of age.
- Children younger than five years of age.
How to Apply for WIC in Your State
Before applying for the WIC program, you will need to know which department administers the program in your state. While some states operate WIC through their department of health, other states may manage the program through the department of social services. Depending on your state, you may be able to apply for WIC online, in person or by mail. However, you will still be required to visit your local WIC office after completing an online application.
For example, when completing a Massachusetts online application, you will be asked to provide your contact information so that a representative can call you with information regarding the rest of the process. Other states, such as Alaska, will allow you to print a WIC application online prior to an in person appointment. State departments usually designate certain places where WIC services are provided. You may find WIC clinics at county health departments, schools and community centers.
To learn how to apply for WIC, download our comprehensive guide.
WIC clinics may only accept appointments or may have designated walk-in hours. If you do not live close to a clinic, you may be able to complete the process by mail instead of having to make a WIC appointment. All state agencies participating in the WIC program generally require that applicants bring documentation that verifies their residency, income and identity. Additionally, most states require that applicants provide proof of a child or pregnancy by bringing the child to the appointment or providing a slip from a medical professional.
What can you get with WIC in your state?
There are a variety of WIC benefits that recipients will be eligible to receive in their states. While each state has its own WIC food list, there is a general consensus of the type of healthy and nutritious foods that recipients will benefit from. Most approved WIC foods consist of the following:
- Baby food and formula
- Fruits and vegetables
- Peanut butter
- Whole grains
- Canned fish
However, it is important to keep in mind that each WIC program has its own restrictions on the sizes, brands and additive ingredients of these foods. Additionally, the types of foods recipients will be eligible to receive will also depend on whether they are pregnant or have children, as well as on the ages of these children. Foods that are not on WIC food lists typically consist of processed and prepared foods. In addition to these food benefits, all WIC state departments provide additional benefits. These WIC benefits include access to essential health and social services, breastfeeding support, special infant formulas for infants with medical conditions and nutrition education and counseling.
To learn more about different types of infant formulas, download our guide.
Learn About WIC Program Delivery by State
While the majority of states distribute the same WIC benefits, each state delivers these benefits differently. States have the option of delivering food benefits through one of the following methods:
- Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)
- Direct distribution food delivery
- Food instruments (FI) or cash value vouchers (CVV)
The most common form of WIC benefits are FIs and CVVs. FIs are considered vouchers, checks and coupons used to obtain a specific quantity of approved foods. CVVs are fixed-dollar amount checks used to buy fruits and vegetables. These are typically used at participating retail stores the same way food stamps were used before the EBT card. However, many states are beginning to adopt the EBT card as a fast and efficient way to shop for WIC benefits. This method is similar to a debit card and can be used at a point-of-sale (POS) terminal to purchase approved WIC foods.
While states like Florida currently have EBT cards in effect, all states are required to use the system. Participants who currently use WIC EBT cards are able to easily check their balances by calling their state agency’s customer service line or visiting their state agency’s website. States, such as Maryland, have WIC online portals where participants can check their WIC benefits.
Furthermore, many states are still participating in-home delivery and direct distribution food delivery. Home delivery is a system in which WIC-approved foods are delivered directly to the homes of recipients. These recipients will receive their supplemental foods 10 days after receiving a certification notice. On the other hand, direct distribution involves having participants, parents or caretakers pick up nutritious foods on the WIC food list from nearby storage facilities.