WIC Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of common frequently asked questions about the WIC program. If you do not see the answer to the questions you are looking for, please contact your local WIC clinic for further assistance. Select a WIC FAQ below to view the answer:
- What does WIC stand for?
- What is WIC?
- What is "nutritional risk"?
- How is WIC funded?
- Is WIC temporary?
- Are WIC services free?
- Is WIC a welfare program?
- What benefits are offered by the WIC program?
- How are WIC benefits distributed?
- Who is eligible for WIC?
- What stores are WIC-approved?
- What if I'm a teen? Do I qualify if I live with my mom or dad?
- What is the WIC infant formula rebate system?
- What do I do if I run out of formula?
- Can You Buy Diapers with WIC?
- What is the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program?
- How do you report a complaint or program abuse?
What does WIC stand for?
WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program.
What is WIC?
WIC is a Federal food assistance program that was established in 1974 to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk.
What is "nutritional risk"?
Two major types of nutritional risk are recognized for WIC eligibility:
- Medically-based risks such as anemia, underweight, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications, or poor pregnancy outcomes
- Diet-based risks such as inadequate dietary pattern
Nutritional risk is determined by a health professional such as a physician, nutritionist, or nurse, and is based on Federal guidelines. This health screening is free to program applicants and usually performed during the applicants first visit to their local WIC clinic.
How is WIC funded?
WIC is a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year. WIC is not an entitlement program such as Medicaid, so it does not receive the funds necessary to serve every eligible person.
Is WIC temporary?
Yes, WIC is for pregnant and post-partum women, infants, and children up to age 5.
Are WIC services free?
Yes. All WIC services are free to women, infants and children, who have a nutrition risk and meet the WIC income guidelines.
Is WIC a welfare program?
WIC is not a welfare or entitlement program. It is a health and nutrition program. WIC's primary goal is to provide tools for families to eat healthy and be healthy. It encourages physical activity for all family members through the Fit WIC classes and provides individualized nutrition counseling which meets an individual's or family's needs.
What benefits are offered by the WIC program?
WIC ensures good health and development by providing specific foods to supplement the nutritional needs of participants. Typical food packages include cereal, milk, cheese, eggs, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and juice, although specific items, products, alternatives, and serving sizes vary greatly between WIC agencies. To find out what foods you can buy with your WIC benefits, view the list of WIC approved foods.
- Other WIC benefits include:
- Breastfeeding Resources
- Nutrition education and counseling at WIC clinics
- Screening and referrals to other health, welfare and social services
How are WIC benefits distributed?
In most WIC state agencies, WIC participants receive checks or vouchers to purchase specific foods each month that are designed to supplement their diets with specific nutrients that benefit WIC's target population. In addition, some states issue an electronic benefit card, called a EBT WIC card, to participants instead of paper checks or vouchers.
All state agencies are required to implement the new system by 2020. A few state agencies distribute the WIC foods through warehouses or deliver the foods to participants homes. Different food packages are provided for different categories of participants.
Who is eligible for WIC?
Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age 5 who meet certain income eligibility and state residency requirements are eligible. Additionally, the applicant must be individually determined to be at "nutrition risk" by a health professional or a trained health official. For more information on what is required in your state, view how to apply for WIC benefits.
What stores are WIC-approved?
Once you are on WIC, you are given checks/vouchers or a WIC EBT card that you can use at your local grocery store to purchase foods approved by WIC. To find out what stores are approved to sell WIC foods, browse our list of WIC approved stores.
What if I'm a teen? Do I qualify if I live with my mom or dad?
In most cases, if you are a teen, you must count all of the income of your household when determining if you are eligible for WIC. Check the WIC income requirements in your state to see if you qualify.
What is the WIC infant formula rebate system?
Mothers participating in WIC are encouraged to breastfeed their infants if possible, but WIC state agencies also provide infant formula for mothers. WIC state agencies agree to provide one brand of infant formula, and the manufacturer gives the state agency a rebate to reduce the cost to WIC participants.
The brand of infant formula provided by WIC varies by state agency depending on each state's rebate contract. To find out more information, please contact your local WIC clinic.
What do I do if I run out of formula?
The WIC Program provides a supplemental package of formula. Families may buy additional formula as needed.
Can You Buy Diapers with WIC?
No. Currently you cannot use your WIC benefits to purchase diapers, pet food, cigarettes or alcohol.
What is the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program?
The FMNP (WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program), provides coupons to WIC participants that can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating local farmers markets. FMNP goals are to provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables, from farmers markets to WIC participants who are at nutritional risk; and to expand consumer awareness and use of local farmers markets.
How do you report a complaint or program abuse?
To report program abuse or a complaint, call your local WIC clinic. WIC staff investigates all complaints or reports of alleged program abuse and takes appropriate action if warranted. If you have already contacted the local WIC agency with no satisfaction, please try contacting your local WIC office. WIC will keep the name of the reporter confidential if requested.