WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. It is commonly referred to as the WIC Program. County health departments, community and rural health centers, and community action agencies provide WIC Program services - find the WIC Program in your county.
- Children up to 5 years of age
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women who have had a baby in the last 12 months
- Women who have had a baby in the last 6 months
The WIC Program promotes healthy habits and healthy families.
- Breastfeed your baby
- Eat more fiber
- Lower the fat
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat more whole grains
- Drink less juice and sweetened beverages
- Make family meals matter
To help participants practice these habits, WIC provides basic nutritious foods to eligible pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, as well as infants and children. These foods are rich in protein, iron, calcium, fiber and vitamins.
Participants exchange WIC food instruments (which list specific foods and quantities) and cash-value vouchers (for fruits and vegetables) at authorized retail grocery stores and pharmacies. In some cases, special formulas are distributed directly to the participant from the WIC local agency.
Foods for Infants (Birth-12 Months)
The Program strongly encourages and provides support for breastfeeding. It recognizes that breastfeeding is the best method of infant feeding and nurturing. However, formula-fed infants receive the WIC contract standard milk- and soy-based iron-fortified infant formula for the first year of life. Beginning at six months of age, infants may also receive iron-fortified infant cereal, and infant fruits and vegetables. Infants who are fully breastfed also receive infant meats.
In some cases, infants may require a formula other than the WIC contract standard milk- or soy-based formulas. Before a WIC agency can issue any formula other than the contract standard milk- or soy-based formula, the participant must obtain a completed prescription from a physician or health care provide. However, please note that the only standard milk- or soy-based formulas provided by the NC WIC Program are those on the current contract; other standard brands are not provided. See the WIC Medical Documentation (PDF, 439 KB).
- Mother’s Breastmilk
- Infant Formula
- Infant Cereal
- Infant Fruits and Vegetables
- Infant Meats (for fully breastfed infants only)
Foods for Women and Children
Women and children (one to five years of age) participating in WIC receive food instruments and cash-value vouchers for a variety of healthy foods. The choices may include whole-grain cereal and bread, brown rice, whole-wheat and soft-corn tortillas; milk; cheese or tofu; eggs; peanut butter; dried or canned beans, peas or lentils; fruit or vegetable juices; and fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned). Women who exclusively breastfeed their babies receive larger quantities of foods as well as canned tuna or salmon. Special formulas or nutritional supplements are also available to women and children participants with certain medical conditions. Before a WIC agency can issue any formula or nutritional supplement, the participant must obtain a prescription from a physician or health care provider. See the WIC Medical Documentation (PDF, 439 KB).
- Whole-grain Bread, Brown Rice, Whole-wheat and Soft-corn Tortillas
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Soy-Based Beverage
- Dried or Canned Beans, Peas and Lentils
- Peanut Butter
Additional Foods for Women Who Soley Breastfeed
- Larger quantities of the foods listed above
- Chunk-light tuna or salmon
Nutrition education is a major benefit of the Program and is provided to all adults and, whenever possible, to children directly. The goals of nutrition education are:
- To teach about the relationship between nutrition, physical activity and good health.
- To improve the eating and physical activity habits as they relate to the participant’s nutritional risk.
- To promote optimal use of the WIC Program’s supplemental foods, and other nutritious foods.
- To provide nutrition education that is appropriate to an individual’s age, educational background, household situation, language, cultural and ethnic preferences, and nutritional needs.
Referrals for Health Care
WIC serves as an adjunct to the health care system. WIC enjoys a reciprocal relationship with the health care community, receiving referrals from private and public health care providers and providing referrals as needed for health and social services. Referrals from WIC include immunizations and substance abuse counseling and treatment. WIC encourages persons already receiving medical services to remain under their physicians' care. It also encourages individuals not receiving medical care to seek and maintain appropriate care.
Breastfeeding Promotion and Support
Breastfeeding promotion and support is an integral part of the WIC Program. WIC strives to increase the initiation, duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding among women enrolled in the Program. All WIC agencies have trained personnel ready to assist mothers in making informed decisions about their infant feeding choice. WIC also instructs mothers in the basics of breastfeeding. Many WIC agencies have breastfeeding peer counselor support programs that provide mother-to-mother counseling. In addition, all local WIC agencies provide breastfeeding aids such as manual and electric breast pumps. WIC offers a food package for women who exclusively breastfeed their babies. This food package adds tuna or salmon in cans or pouches, as well as additional amounts of whole grains, cereal, milk, cheese, juice, peanut butter, beans, peas and lentils.
WIC is available to pregnant, breast feeding and postpartum women, infants and children up to age five. To participate, these persons must:
- Live in North Carolina.
- Have a family income less than 185% of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines. A person receiving Medicaid, Work First Families Assistance (TANF), or assistance from the NC Food and Nutrition Services automatically meets the income eligibility requirement.
- Be at nutritional risk. A nutritionist or other health professional makes the nutritional risk assessment at no cost to the participant, usually at the local WIC office. Examples of nutritional risk conditions are listed below. For a complete listing, call 919-707-5800.
- Abnormal anthropometric or hematological measurements.
- Documented nutrition-related medical conditions.
- Inadequate dietary intake.
- Conditions that predispose a person to inadequate nutritional patterns such as lead poisoning, migrancy, alcohol or drug abuse.
WIC Certification Periods
- Pregnant women are certified for their pregnancy and up to six weeks postpartum. By 6 weeks postpartum they must be recertified as a postpartum or breast feeding woman.
- Non-breast feeding postpartum women are certified until six months postpartum.
- Breastfeeding postpartum women are certified for up to 12 months postpartum.
- Infants certified before six months of age are certified until their first birthday. Infants certified after six months of age are certified for six months.
- Children are certified every twelve months until five years of age.
WIC Income Guidelines
Once the size and gross income of the economic unit (or household) have been determined and documented, staff use the poverty income guidelines included in the chart below to determine income eligibility. The guidelines are published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Income Eligibility Chart (Effective July 1, 2018)
|Maximum Gross Income|
|Size of Household**||Annual||Monthly||Weekly||Bi-Weekly||Twice Monthly|
|For each additional
household member, add:
Note: A person who currently receives Medicaid, Work First, or Food and Nutrition Services (Food Stamps) automatically meets the income eligibility guidelines for WIC.
*185% of the Federal Poverty guidelines per the Federal Register.
** A household (or economic unit) is defined as a person or group of persons, related or nonrelated, who usually (although not necessarily) live together, and whose production of income and consumption of goods or services are related. The income of everyone in the economic unit is counted to determine eligibility.
Where to Apply? Who to Contact?
To apply for the WIC Program please contact the office of the local WIC agency that serves the residents of the county in which you live.
- To find the location of the WIC office for your county, you may:
- To obtain additional referral forms, pamphlets, or other information contact your county health department.
When you go to apply for WIC, please remember to bring:
- Proof of identification (for all individuals applying for WIC)
- Proof of income (for all household members with income)
- Proof of residence (where you live)
Examples of what you will need to bring:
- Identification: (Only one is needed) - Valid driver's license, Social Security card, current work/school ID, current Medicaid card, current military ID, birth certificate, immunization record, and for infants: hospital crib card, ID bracelet or mother’s verification of facts form.
- Residence (where you live): (Only one is needed) - Current utility bill, valid driver’s license, current Medicaid card (or presumptive eligibility form), bank statement, current rental or mortgage receipts, Division of Motor Vehicle ID card.
- Income: Current paycheck stubs, if self-employed your recent tax return or history of earnings for the past twelve months, current Medicaid card, a letter of certification for the NC Food and Nutrition Services, a letter from your employer stating gross income and frequency of pay, unemployment letter/notice.
To qualify for WIC, applicants must be both income eligible and have an identified medical/nutritional risk factor. These criteria will be assessed when you apply for WIC at your local WIC office.
With some exceptions, each person applying for WIC must be physically present at the time of application at the local WIC office.
Does WIC Improve Health?
Evidence suggests that women who participate in WIC have improved pregnancy outcomes, resulting in healthier babies and reduced newborn medical costs. This benefits the infants and saves Medicaid millions of dollars in intensive neonatal care. Other studies' findings show that:
- Newborn intensive care costs $2.4 billion, or about $15,000 a baby. The average cost of WIC benefits for a pregnant woman is less than $250 (1985).
- Children who participate in WIC were more likely to receive regular preventive health services and were better immunized than children who did not participate in WIC (National WIC Evaluation, 1987).
- North Carolina Medicaid costs dropped by an estimated $744 for the first 50 days of life. In other words, for every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation, North Carolina saved $3.90 in newborn Medicaid costs (WIC Medicaid Evaluation, 1992).
- WIC benefits improved the quality of diet among infants and preschool children in the WIC Program (National WIC Evaluation, 1987).
- WIC provides quality, cost-effective care to hundreds of thousands of North Carolina women, infants, and children.
Benefits to Women and Newborns
- WIC saves public health care dollars. In North Carolina, every WIC dollar spent on a pregnant woman saves $3.13 in Medicaid costs during the first 60 days of the infant's life.
- WIC participation significantly increases the number of women receiving adequate prenatal care.
- WIC dramatically lowers infant mortality by about 25% to 66% among Medicaid beneficiaries who participated in WIC, compared to Medicaid beneficiaries who did not participate in WIC.
- WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women. It also improves weight gain in pregnant women.
- WIC participation decreases the incidence of low birth weight by 3.3% and lowers pre-term births by 3.5%.
- Women who received Medicaid benefits and prenatal WIC services had substantially lower rates of low and very low birth weight than did women who received Medicaid but not prenatal WIC.
Benefits to Children
- WIC lowers the rate of anemia among participating children ages six months to five years. The data shows an average decrease in the anemia rate of more than 16% for each year from 1980 to 1992.
- WIC significantly improves children's diets, particularly when it comes to vitamins and nutrients including iron, vitamin C, thiamin, protein, niacin, and vitamin B6.
- Four and five year-olds who participate in WIC in early childhood have better vocabularies and digit memory scores than comparable children who do not participate in WIC.
- WIC participation leads to higher rates of immunization against childhood diseases.
When Did WIC Begin Nationally?
In the late 1960s, during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, the federal government focused a great deal of attention on helping low-income Americans.
The 1967 National Nutrition Survey revealed that many lower income children suffered from anemia and inadequate growth. These conditions can adversely affect brain size and cognitive ability. The study showed that children got off to a poor start both physically and mentally because they didn't have enough to eat or they didn't eat the right foods. Some children also suffered because mothers did not get adequate nutrition during their pregnancies.
In 1972, Congress passed a bill sponsored by Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D.Minn.) to create the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Congress funded the program for two years and put the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in charge of it.
When Did WIC Come to NC?
The first WIC offices in North Carolina opened their doors in 1974. The offices were located in Guilford County, Johnston County, Mecklenburg County, Orange County, Forsyth County, and Warren County.
What Has Happened Since?
WIC has continued to change and grow over its three-decade lifespan. USDA has streamlined the process for certifying income eligibility for families already receiving other federal assistance. The Department has added breastfeeding education and promotion to WIC responsibilities. Some states provide food instruments so participants can buy fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets during the summer months.
In 2009, there were some big changes for WIC. There are now more choices to support healthy habits such as breastfeeding, and eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while lowering the fat. There is now more variety. Whole-grain breads and cereals, tortillas, brown rice, fruits, vegetables and tofu are available to WIC participants. WIC has many triumphs to its credit. For instance, childhood anemia has dropped dramatically since the 1967 study -- and WIC has been credited as the major reason for that decline. In North Carolina, the WIC Program serves more than 270,000 women, infants and children each month.
Last Modified: August 13, 2018