Office of Nutrition Services
350 Capitol Street • Room 519 • Charleston, WV 25301-3715
phone: 304-558-0030 • fax: 304-558-1541

Quick WIC Facts

WIC History

  • WIC stands for The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
  • WIC was created in 1972 as a response to concerns raised by physicians attending the White House Conference on Hunger. Discussion centered on low income women, infants and children whose health was being affected by malnutrition. Physicians agreed that in addition to needed health care support, these at-risk mothers and their children also would benefit from receiving supplemental food products and nutrition guidance.

WIC Today

  • WIC is administered through the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • In West Virginia, the WIC supplemental nutrition program operates through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health.
  • WIC provides low-to-moderate income, nutritionally at-risk participants with nutrition education, breastfeeding support, free supplemental healthy food, immunization screenings, and referrals for other health and social service needs.
  • West Virginia's WIC clinics serve approximately 42,000 people each month. Based on West Virginia census and Medicaid participation data, it is estimated that WIC is serving 80% of eligible West Virginians.
  • West Virginia WIC serves three out of four infants born in our state, and one-quarter of all children between one and four years of age.
  • WIC could reach the caregivers of 75% of all infants and one quarter of all preschoolers in West Virginia, as well as one third of all expectant mothers, and support them in maintaining healthy lifestyles.

WIC Participants

  • WIC provides services to nutritionally at-risk persons who meet the income guidelines for their family size, including:
    • Pregnant women (throughout pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth or pregnancy ends)
    • Breastfeeding women (up to infant's first birthday)
    • Non-breastfeeding, postpartum women (up to six months after birth or after pregnancy ends)
    • Infants (up to first birthday)
    • Children up to their fifth birthday.
  • Nutritional risk is determined by a health professional such as a nutritionist, and is based on federal guidelines. This health screening is free to all applicants.
  • "At-risk" medical or nutritional needs that may qualify a person for WIC benefits include:
    • Medical conditions that affect food intake or nutrition status
    • Height or weight measurements significantly higher or lower than expected
    • Low intake of essential nutrients
    • Conditions that predispose a person to inadequate nutrition patterns such as lead poisoning, teen pregnancy, alcohol or drug abuse, anemia, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications or poor pregnancy outcomes.
  • WIC can provide monthly food benefits worth $42 to $125 for certain healthy groceries including fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs, whole grains, beans, peanut butter, natural cheese, iron fortified cereals, infant formula and Vitamin-C rich natural juices.
  • While addressing childhood obesity is not an easy task, the reach and focus of the WIC Program offers a unique opportunity to reduce and prevent this problem, starting with promotion and support of breastfeeding.

WIC Providers

  • More than 295 West Virginia grocery stores are WIC-approved providers for WIC participants to use an eWIC card to purchase specified food items.
  • WIC provides 35 million dollars to the West Virginia economy through participant purchases at grocery stores.
  • Many working families qualify for WIC benefits. Applicants must:
    • Live in West Virginia
    • Have one or more documented nutritional risks
    • Have a household income that is less than or equal to 185 percent of the poverty level

Qualifying for WIC

  • WIC has the same income guidelines as the free and reduced price school lunch program.
  • Families that qualify for Medicaid, WVWORKS, or SNAP automatically meet WIC income requirements.
  • Fathers, grandparents, foster parents or guardians also may apply for WIC benefits for a young child in their care.
  • WIC is one of the nation's most successful and cost-effective nutrition intervention programs.
  • When applying for WIC benefits, the applicant must bring:
    • Income information
    • Proof of West Virginia address (you do not need to be a U.S. citizen)
    • Your children who need WIC services or benefits
    • You children's shot (immunization) records
    • Medical information from your doctor (if you have it).

WIC Research

  • Numerous studies have shown that pregnant women who participate in WIC have longer pregnancies leading to fewer premature births; have less low and very low birth-weight babies; experience fewer fetal and infant deaths; seek prenatal care earlier in pregnancy and consume more of such key nutrients as iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C.
  • Every dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC produces $1.92 to $4.21 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers. It only costs approximately $622 a year for a pregnant woman to participate in WIC.
  • It costs over $21,000 per pound to raise a very low (less than 3.3 pounds) birth-weight baby to normal weight (7 pounds). However, it only costs approximately $89 per pound to provide WIC prenatal care benefits.
  • WIC prenatal care benefits reduce the rate of low birth-weight babies by 25% and very low birth-weight babies by 44%. Medicaid costs were reduced on average between $12,000 to $15,000 for every very low birth-weight incident prevented by participation in WIC.
  • Children who are a part of the WIC program are more likely to be healthy, do better in school, maintain up-to-date immunizations, and have regular medical care as well as lower medical costs to themselves than those not participating in the program.
  • WIC helps to ensure infants' and children's normal growth, reduces levels of anemia, increases immunization rates, improves access to regular health care and improves diets.
  • Research has demonstrated that:
    • WIC infants are in better health than eligible infants not participating in WIC
    • WIC children at ages 1 to 2 have less dental related Medicaid costs compared to children who do not participate in WIC.
    • Children who drop out of WIC are less likely to be immunized compared to children who participate in WIC.
    • Infants receiving WIC are less likely to be underweight, but are not at greater risk for overweight.
    • Low-income children not enrolled in the WIC Program have a higher prevalence of anemia than those who are enrolled.
    • Four and five-year-olds whose mothers participated in WIC during pregnancy have better vocabulary test scores than children whose mothers had not received WIC benefits.
    • Participation in WIC dramatically improves HEI (Healthy Eating Index) scores for the household.

WIC Services

  • WIC provides a monthly food package of nutritious foods tailored to supplement the dietary needs of participants. The foods are specifically chosen to provide high levels of protein, iron, calcium, and Vitamins A and C, nutrients that have been scientifically shown to be lacking or needed in extra amounts in the diets of the WIC population. These five nutrients plus calories and other essential nutrients provided by the WIC Food Package are critical for assuring good health, growth and development.
  • The average number of persons in a WIC family is four. The average income of a participant is $14,758. 57% of WIC participants reside in families with income below the poverty level. 33% of WIC participants do not participate in any other federal assistance programs.
  • Studies completed by USDA indicate that expenses to raise a child range from $7,040 to $8,070 per year for families with a before-tax income of less than $41,700. Food is the second largest average expense for raising a child, accounting for 15-20 % of annual child-rearing expenses.
  • WIC is not welfare. It is a short-term intervention program designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behaviors. Families receive free supplemental foods to meet their immediate nutritional needs while learning how to choose healthy foods that provide the necessary nutrients for each person's diet.
  • The purpose of WIC, as an adjunct to health care, is to improve the health status of and prevent the occurrence of health problems in Program participants. This is accomplished in large part through delivery of WIC nutrition services.

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