What is WIC?
WIC is a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) funded through the federal government to to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk. This program provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care through 90 State agencies. (USDA FNS website)
How many people utilize WIC?
In 2018, the WIC program had a total of 7.8 million participants, including 1.8 million women (23%), 1.9 million infants (24%), and 4.2 million children (53%).
How does WIC Work?
WIC is a federal program with state governance. Eligibility of participants and specific food items included are determined by and for each state. Eligible participants receive paper checks / vouchers or an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to purchase specific types and amounts of eligible food items each month. States individually authorize the retailers to stock WIC authorized foods and accept WIC payments as well as the list of authorized foods allowed to be purchased with WIC benefits.
What foods are included in the supplemental food benefits that WIC participants can receive?
The foods provided through the WIC Program are designed to supplement participants' diets with specific nutrients. WIC authorized foods include infant cereal, baby foods, iron-fortified adult cereal, fruits and vegetables, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, soy-based beverages, tofu, peanut butter, dried and canned beans/peas, canned fish, whole wheat bread and other whole-grain options. For infants of women who do not fully breastfeed, WIC also provides iron-fortified infant formula. Specific food items included must first meet federal regulatory / nutrition requirements for WIC food packages. A product can only be purchased with WIC benefits if it is included on a state's WIC approved food list.
What is the difference between WIC and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)?
The WIC and SNAP (formerly food stamps) programs are both federal feeding assistance programs that provide eligible individuals with access to supplemental foods. While the WIC program is only for pregnant or post-partum women, infants, and children, the SNAP program is open to all individuals that meet federal poverty guidelines. The supplemental foods that can be purchased with WIC program benefits must meet federal nutrition guidelines and accepted for inclusion in each state, while the SNAP program allows participants to use benefits on any food item.
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