Background

WIC is administered at the Federal level by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and is administered at the local level by 90 WIC State agencies. These agencies cover all 50 States, the District of Columbia, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth Islands of the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

To qualify for WIC, an applicant must be either a pregnant or postpartum (up to 1 year if breastfeeding or 6 months if not breastfeeding) woman, an infant or a child younger than 5. WIC applicants must have a family income at or below 185 percent of the U.S. poverty level or participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly the Food Stamp Program), Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Applicants must also meet a State residency requirement and be at nutritional risk, as determined by a health professional (such as a physician, nutritionist, or nurse).

The number of participants that the WIC program services is determined by a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funding each year for program operations. Congress has funded the program each year since the late 1990s for WIC to serve all eligible applicants.

Efforts to reduce food costs in the WIC program— infant formula rebates as an example—help to increase the number of participants the WIC program can serve. WIC State agencies are legally required to enter into cost-containment contracts for the purchase of infant formula used in WIC. After competitive bidding, WIC State agencies typically award a contract to a single manufacturer of infant formula for the exclusive right to provide its product to WIC participants. In return, WIC State agencies obtain significant discounts in the form of rebates from infant formula manufacturers. In fiscal 2018, infant formula rebates totaled about $1.7 billion and supported almost one in every four WIC participants.

Seven different food packages are provided for different categories of participants. All packages provide foods that are high in one or more of the following nutrients: protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. 

Additional information on WIC is available at the FNS website:

Related information is available from the following resources: