WIC Program Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Who is Eligible for WIC Program?

Pregnant or postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5 are eligible. They must meet income guidelines, a State residency requirement, and be individually determined to be at “nutritional risk” by a health professional.

To be eligible on the basis of income, applicants’ gross income (i.e. before taxes are withheld) must fall at or below 185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines:

While most States use the maximum guidelines, States may set lower income limit standards. A person or certain family members who participate in other benefits programs such as the Food Stamp Program, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families automatically meet the income eligibility requirement.

How to Apply to Participate in WIC

2. What is Nutritional Risk to be eligible for WIC Program?

Two major types of nutritional risk are recognized for WIC eligibility:

  • Medically-based risks (designated as “high priority”) 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.

Beginning April 1, 1999, State agencies use WIC nutrition risk criteria from a list established for use in the WIC Program. WIC nutrition risk criteria were developed by FNS in conjunction with State and local WIC agency experts. WIC State agencies are not required to use all of the nutritional risk criteria on the new list. FNS will update the list of criteria, as necessary, when new scientific evidence shows, after review by FNS and other health and nutrition experts, that the condition can be improved by providing WIC program benefits and services.

3. How many people receive WIC Program?

Roughly 2 million women, 2 million infants and 4 million children (monthly figures).  During Fiscal 2014, the total number of people receiving WIC Program exceeded 8 million.

4.  Where is WIC Program Available?

State agency contact information

5. What Type of food do WIC Program participants receive?

In most WIC State agencies, WIC participants receive checks or food instruments to purchase specific foods each month which are designed to supplement their diets. WIC food is high in one or more of the following nutrients: protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. These are the nutrients frequently lacking in the diets of the program’s low-income target population. Different food packages are provided for different categories of participants. A few WIC State agencies distribute WIC foods through warehouses or deliver WIC foods to participants.

WIC foods include iron-fortified infant formula and infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit and/or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried beans or peas, tuna fish and carrots. Special infant formulas and certain medical foods may be provided when prescribed by a physician or health professional for a specified medical condition.

6. Who gets first priority for WIC Program participation?

WIC cannot serve all eligible people, so a system of priorities has been established for filling program openings. Once a local WIC agency has reached its maximum caseload, vacancies are generally filled in the order of the following priority levels:

  • Pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants determined to be at nutritional risk because of serious medical problems.
  • Infants up to 6 months of age whose mothers participated in WIC or could have participated and had serious medical problems.
  • Children (up to age 5) at nutritional risk because of serious medical problems.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women and infants at nutritional risk because of dietary problems (like poor diet).
  • Children (up to age 5) at nutritional risk because of dietary problems.
  • Non-breastfeeding, postpartum women with any nutritional risk.
  • Individuals at nutritional risk only because they are homeless or migrants, and current participants who without WIC foods could continue to have medical and/or dietary problems.

7.  What is WIC Program Infant Formula Rebate System?

Mothers participating in WIC are encouraged to breastfeed their infants if possible, but State WIC agencies will provide formula to mothers who choose to use it. WIC State agencies are required by law to have competitively-bid infant formula rebate contracts with infant formula manufacturers. This means a WIC State agency agrees to provide one brand of infant formula to its participants and in return receives money back, called a rebate, from the manufacturer for each can of infant formula that is purchased by WIC participants.  As a result, WIC pays the lowest possible price for infant formula. The brand of infant formula provided by WIC varies from State agency to State agency, depending on which company has the rebate contract in a particular State.

The WIC Program gets back over a billion dollars each year from infant formula manufacturers. This is a big savings to the WIC Program which allows many more eligible women, infants, and children to be served. From October 2001 to September 2002, nearly $1.5 billion was given back to WIC State agencies by infant formula manufacturers and this money was used to serve about 2.1 million additional eligible women, infants and children. In general, approximately 1 out of every 4 participants is served with rebate money.

8.  What is WIC Program’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program?

The WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), established in 1992, provides additional coupons to WIC participants that they can use to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets. FMNP is funded through a Congressionally mandated set-aside in the WIC appropriation. The program has two goals: To provide fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables, from farmers’ markets to WIC participants who are at nutritional risk; and to expand consumers’ awareness and use of farmers’ markets.

By November 15 of each year, each applying or participating State agency must submit to the FNS Regional Office for approval a State plan for the following year as a prerequisite to receiving funds. FMNP State Plan guidance may also be obtained at the FNS Regional Office.

An administering FMNP State agency may be the agriculture department, the health department, or any other agency approved by the chief executive officer of the State or Indian Tribal organization. Click here to go to the FMNP State agency directory.