How to Qualify for WIC

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Women, Infants and Children is a nutrition program for low-income families. Although federal grants fund WIC, state and local agencies administer the program at the grassroots level. Some of the benefits WIC can provide include nutritious foods, educational resources, counseling and referrals to other social service agencies. To qualify for WIC, you must meet the requirements for category, residence, income and risk of poor nutrition.

Finding Your Category

Women qualify for WIC by category while they are pregnant and up to six months after a pregnancy or after giving birth. Women also qualify for the program during their first year of breastfeeding an infant. Infants qualify for assistance until they turn 1, and children qualify until they turn 5.

Meeting the Residence Requirement

You must live in the state where you wish to apply for WIC, and some state agencies also require you to live in the particular service area where you apply. Nonetheless, there's no requirement to have lived in that area for a particular length of time. If Indian tribal organizations administer WIC in your area, you must fulfill their requirements for residence.

Qualifying by Income

Applicants can meet the income requirement automatically or by actual income. Applicants who have already qualified for the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Medicaid automatically qualify. If other family members belong to these programs, applicants may also qualify automatically. In addition, state agencies sometimes qualify applicants who meet the requirements for other state assistance programs. Otherwise, applicants must prove that their family income equals or is less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determines this level each year.

Proving Nutrition Risk

A nutritionist, doctor or nurse must perform an assessment and verify that applicants are at risk nutritionally. The assessment is often free at WIC offices, or applicants can consult a personal physician. The minimum examination includes a health and dietary history, a blood test for iron and the measurement of height and weight. To qualify as nutritionally at risk, applicants must have a medical condition, such as low blood iron or low weight, or a nutritionally poor diet.

Applying for WIC

You must telephone your local WIC office to make an appointment and appear in person to apply for benefits. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides contact information for WIC locations on its website. You can also use the online WIC pre-screening tool to help determine if you may qualify and find out what documents to bring. For example, you may need to bring proof of identity, proof of your address, a medical referral, proof of pregnancy, proof of income or documentation that you are in another assistance program. Even if you qualify, you may be put on a waiting list, because some agencies are short of funds.


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