Hello, hello, my friend! Thank you for joining me again today as we talk about something very important to me. We’re talking about WIC today, and I’m sharing what WIC is and why you should care about it.

Have you heard of WIC? Some people have and some haven’t. A lot of people know it as just another government assistance program, and it is indeed an assistance program. But many people don’t know who WIC helps or how, and because of that, they miss out on potential benefits they could receive.

Emmeric is currently enrolled in WIC, and we absolutely love it. We are so grateful we qualified for WIC when I found out I was pregnant, and we’ve been on it ever since. So now I want to share the information with you, my dear friends, because I think it’s important to understand this.

So What Is WIC?

I’m going to be very thorough and try to give you as much information about WIC as I can find. So just brace yourselves!

WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. It’s a government program that sends federal grant money to the states to provide free food, nutrition information, and other things for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or non-breastfeeding postpartum and for children from birth to age 5. According to the official website, the program is designed for those who are at risk of nutritional deficiencies.

The program provides strict income guidelines on their website, but from what I understand their guidelines are looser than, say, food stamps or Medicaid. In that respect, it’s easier for a person to get onto WIC than certain other programs. You can see their income guidelines here. Additionally, you need to be determined by a medical professional to be at nutritional risk.

For me, that meant the WIC counselors qualified me by stating I was overweight prior to pregnancy. I’m just being honest here. They used my slightly higher than standard weight as their basis for qualifying me for WIC. I could be annoyed, but really, I was just grateful for the help!

What Do You Get On WIC?

I said this program helps you with food, and it does. I want to be very clear that WIC is great for the standard American diet (SAD), and their assistance provides for items commonly associated with the old fashioned food pyramid we grew up with.

The thing about WIC is that it’s not only provided by states who have different determinations of what goes into the program, but it also varies based on who’s on the program. For example: as a pregnant and breastfeeding mom, I received at least one jar of peanut butter per month, but now that I’m no longer on the program, we don’t get peanut butter.

Instead of telling you what you’ll receive on WIC, let me give you some generic categories of food you could get from the program:

  • Dairy – Including milk, cheese, yogurt, and evaporated milk
  • Beans – Either dried or canned
  • Vegetables & Fruits – Both fresh and frozen
  • Juice – Frozen juices (like orange juice) or non-refrigerated bottled juices
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cereal
  • Whole Grain Products – Including bread and pasta
  • Eggs
  • Miscellaneous Other Items – Including tofu!

Essentially WIC really cares about getting you things that are going to be considered generally healthy according to American standards. One thing to note is that you’re not going to be grabbing organic items on WIC. Most states will approve certain brands and store brands (that are usually indicated by signs at the grocery store) and will not allow you to simply purchase whatever you want. The exception to this is in the fruits and vegetables. You can purchase organic fruits and vegetables, but you need to be careful because those can get pricy rather quickly.

I Have Dietary Restrictions. Does WIC Cover Those?

It really depends. Here is where it gets tricky. I stated above that WIC uses the SAD diet and food pyramid for determining what foods you receive. To be quite honest, I would prefer to not be on a standard American diet because I find it just helps me gain weight instead of lose it. But as beggars can’t be choosers, I use WIC.

WIC uses the Standard American Diet to determine food packages. Click To Tweet

By and large, WIC does not make modifications to the types of foods you receive, and in general, I understand they can either leave things off in the event of an allergy, or you can choose not to purchase an item. However, there are some times when they will make an exception to this. In some cases the WIC office will customize the vouchers or card you receive in order to make it fit your dietary needs.

In our case, that meant that when Emmeric was diagnosed with a dairy protein intolerance while I was breastfeeding, we received different vouchers. We were able to purchase soy milk instead of regular dairy milk, but unfortunately we lost all our other dairy (cheese, yogurt, evaporated milk) and had no replacements for those.

If your diet is more of a preference than a medical need, WIC will generally not change the items you receive. So if you choose to follow a Keto or Paleo based diet, WIC is probably not for you.

One big thing to note is that if you need to make changes to your WIC due to medical necessity, your WIC office will likely request paperwork from your doctor to authorize the change. It helps to be prepared if you’re expecting something like this and make a request with your doctor’s office in a timely manner. In some cases, doctors offices have posted guidelines for how long they need to be able to fill a request for WIC, so be sure to check those out.

What About Farmers’ Markets?

I really like this part even though we found out about it just a bit too late to indulge this summer. States can apply to join the government’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and that allows them to supply vouchers for WIC participants to be used at their local Farmers’ Markets!

Depending on whether your state participates or not, you could receive vouchers for use at the Farmers’ Markets in your area, which is just so cool! I love the opportunity to support my local market, and since we’re not exactly rolling in money over here at A Life With A Little, I really appreciate that I can still support my local farms even on public assistance.

This Is All Great, But I Don’t Need WIC. Why Should I Care About This Program?

This is really where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? I realize a large number of people think that any government assistance program is essentially a welfare program gone wrong. Trust me when I say I’ve seen the vast number of articles and comments likening recipients of these programs to trash, vagrants, and swindlers. I actually understand where people are coming from when they throw out the stereotypes, I really do.

But.

(You knew there was a “but,” right?)

But you probably know someone who qualifies for WIC and could truly benefit from the program. This person probably doesn’t even know about WIC, or if she does, it’s a cursory, general sort of knowledge. She’s likely struggling to make ends meet for whatever reason. And you could be the person who shows her a light at the end of the tunnel.

You probably know someone who could use WIC. Click To Tweet

Let me tell you about my friend. My friend didn’t know about WIC, but she knew she could use some help. She became pregnant and fell into tough times. Her husband was in sales, and sales are – if anything – volatile at the best of times. She worked part-time and was launching her own business. I told her about how WIC had helped us so much, and when she told me how her family was doing financially, I made sure she knew to apply for WIC as soon as possible. She got on the program and began being able to buy things her family had been going without.

Now, you might sit back and say you don’t know anyone that WIC could help. I suppose that’s possible, and if you genuinely don’t know someone who’s on WIC or who needs WIC, consider this. WIC helps over 7 million people monthly. From their own statistics, you can see that WIC benefits more children and infants than women, with only 1.84 million women receiving those benefits in 2016.

WIC benefits more infants and children than women. Click To Tweet

You can tell me all day that those of us who receive WIC need to stop having babies we can’t afford. You can yell and scream that it’s not fair to hard-working American citizens who are paying into a system you don’t benefit from. You can accuse me of stealing your tax dollars. That’s fine.

But when you get right down to it, WIC benefits mainly children. These are the innocent children we bring into this world. The main WIC recipients that are stealing your tax dollars, taking from hard-working Americans, and whatnot are infants and young children.

So if you really don’t see how WIC is useful, helpful, or beneficial, by all means ignore this. I am grateful for WIC because it has saved our bacon on more than one occasion when the budget couldn’t be stretched any further. We don’t plan to be on WIC forever, but for what it’s worth and for having worked and paid into the system, we are so grateful for this program.

What about you? Have you ever used WIC? What do you think of the program? Let me know in the comments. And if you find this post helpful, feel free to pin or share it! I really hope it helps someone out who might not otherwise know about this fantastic program. Next time I’ll share some of the more colorful aspects of being a WIC recipient! You won’t want to miss that!

Rachel

P.S. If you want a great read about WIC from another recipient’s perspective, check this out.

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