The WIC program can offer food assistance, as long as you meet its four main eligibility requirements.
Food stamps (now formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are just one way to feed your family when times get tough. Another is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
To qualify for WIC food assistance, you’ll need to meet these four eligibility requirements:
1. The Categorical Requirement
As its name suggests, WIC was created to help three main categories of people:
Women qualify for WIC if they are pregnant. Their eligibility period will run during pregnancy and six weeks after it ends or the baby’s birth.
Women also qualify during the postpartum stage, which is up to six months after the pregnancy ends or the baby’s birth.
Lastly, women who are breastfeeding can get WIC food assistance up to the infant’s first birthday.
Beyond women, infants are eligible for WIC up to their first birthday, and children are eligible up to their fifth birthday.
2. The Income Requirement
A WIC applicant’s income must sit at or below a standard set by the state they live in. This is usually somewhere between 100-185 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines. These guidelines are set annually by the Department of Health and Human Services. You can view them here.
There’s another way to determine income eligibility as well, and it’s automatic. If a WIC applicant participates in particular programs, they can become automatically eligible for food assistance.
Automatic eligibility is usually tied to the receipt of the following benefits:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
If family members meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid or TANF, that could result in WIC approval, as could eligibility for certain benefits programs offered by the state.
3. The Residential Requirement
To fulfill this requirement, you will have to live in the state you are applying in if you wish to receive WIC benefits. If you live in an area where WIC is handled by an Indian Tribal Organization (ITO), you will have to meet its own residency requirements.
Luckily, there are no specific time requirements for residency. In other words, you don’t have to live in an area for a certain period before applying for WIC.
4. The Nutrition Risk Requirement
WIC clinics offer free nutrition screenings by health professionals to determine if an applicant has a nutrition risk. This requirement can also be filled with information from the applicant’s physician.
To meet the nutrition risk requirement, an applicant can have either medical-based conditions, such as anemia or being underweight, or dietary-based conditions, such as a poor diet.
There are several other examples of medical and dietary-based conditions. The applicant must have at least one of them to qualify. At the very least, height and weight will need to be documented, and blood must be checked for anemia.
To get started with applying for WIC benefits, use this Prescreening Tool. It only takes about 15 minutes to complete. If you qualify, WIC food assistance could give your household a nice dietary boost while helping you save money.