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 covering 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 one year if breastfeeding or 6 months if not breastfeeding) woman, an infant younger than age one, or a child up to his or her fifth birthday. WIC applicants must have 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.
WIC is not an entitlement program—that is, Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program—but a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funding each year for program operations.
Cost-containment practices—especially infant formula rebates—play a major role in increasing 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 2017, 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, including:
- Eligibility guidelines.
- How to apply for the program.
- Program benefits and services, such as breastfeeding promotion and support, nutrition services, and food packages.
- Program data.
- Research reports.
- Laws and regulations.
- State agency contact information.
- The Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.
Related information is available from the following resources:
- United States General Accounting Office (GAO)—GAO has conducted numerous studies on WIC. Search for GAO's WIC-related reports.
- National Academies Press website—additional reports on WIC are available.
- USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) provides information on dietary guidelines, ChoseMyPlate, and the Healthy Eating Index.