WIC: What Foods Are Available?

By Ana H.

The U.S. WIC Program is a nutrition program designed for low-income women, infants and children considered to be at nutritional risk. The program has as the main purpose to encourage and to support breastfeeding and to ensure the mothers an optimal nutritional package. Besides food, the program also offers breastfeeding mothers counseling and various educational materials. They are also offered follow-up support with specialized counselors’ help.

Mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies are offered enhanced food packages as well as additional devices such as breast pumps and/or shells and food supplements which enable breastfeeding mothers to initiate or to continue the breastfeeding.

Eligible women for the WIC Program are the pregnant women, the postpartum mothers and the breastfeeding mothers (till the baby has 1 year of age).

To become eligible, women have to be a U.S. legal resident and meet the requirements of the program (to have an income at or below the standard income level and to be seen by a physician, or a nutritionist who determine the nutrition risk). The gross income (before taxes being paid) has to be at or below 185 % of the U.S. poverty income guidelines.

There are certain categories that may automatically qualify for the program: women or their families if they are assisted through Medicaid or if they are at a temporary assistance (offered to needy individuals or families).

The WIC Program offers eligible categories' food packages with high nutrient products which meet the optimal daily requirements of calcium, vitamin D and C, and protein.

The packages offered by the program contain:
• Milk (low fat or skimmed milk, whole milk, evaporated (goat) milk, dry milk);
• Yogurt (whole milk or plain yogurt);
• Cheese (low-fat cheese);
• Soy (beverage and tofu);
• Beans (dry beans, canned beans);
• Peanut butter;
• Wheat (whole wheat bread or tortillas, bulgur, oatmeal, whole-grain      barley);
• Rice (brown rice);
• Pasta (whole wheat pasta and whole wheat macaroni);
• Breakfast cereals;
• Vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned);
• Fruits (fresh, frozen or canned);
• Eggs;
• Fruit juice (unsweetened);
• Other whole grain cereals;
• Fish (canned fish such as light tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel).

The WIC Program allows mothers to maximize their daily purchases by offering them a voucher available when buying fruits and vegetables; it allows them to buy fresh fruits and vegetables instead of dried or canned ones. More information and guidance can be found on the program’s official website.