Program Administration and Delivery
The WIC food benefits package varies depending on pregnancy status and number of children. The USDA specifies the maximum monthly allowances of supplemental foods for children and women dependent on food packages.
The monthly food packages for infants vary depending on if an infant is fully formula fed, partially breastfed or fully breastfed. Because of the numerous benefits of breastfeeding including lowering a baby’s risk of infections and diseases, and supporting maternal bonding through skin-to-skin contact, women who fully breastfeed receive a larger food package for both them and their baby. When the child finishes breastfeeding, they receive more nutritional packages as they grow older.
Unlike SNAP or TANF, programs that allow flexibility in what participants purchase, the WIC program specifies which foods and how many of those food items may be purchased each month. The USDA provides detailed information regarding eligible food items and quantities per category.
State Application Process and Flexibility
Although WIC is largely standardized across states to ensure consistency and reach, states do have some flexibility in how applicants apply for the program. For example, proof of address, income level or identification requirements can vary based on the local WIC agency requirements. Many states allow online applications and offer services via telephone or an in-person consultation. For more information on the state-by-state application process, see the USDA state agency map.
WIC Programs and Services
The WIC program offers services beyond the monthly food benefit. Breastfeeding support and counseling including lactation assistance for postpartum mothers, nutrition education classes, access to registered dietitians and the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program are commonly available through WIC. Some WIC agencies also partner with the WICShopper application which helps participants identify and find eligible grocery items.
While the WIC program is largely administered by local agencies, at the state level WIC partners with other federal agencies, advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, technology companies, farmers, food manufacturers, vendors and other stakeholders to implement the program.
The WIC program is funded through federal discretionary spending. Congress typically appropriates $5-$6 billion annually to cover all eligible WIC recipients. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service allocates grants to each state, territory and Indian Tribal Organization (ITO) to administer WIC programs. States are not required to contribute state funds to WIC.
The WIC program is authorized in the Child Nutrition Act. The most recent reauthorization was the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 which included the transition from WIC paper benefits to the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. The Child Nutrition Act is intended to be reauthorized every five years. Though the current authorization expired in 2015, the program has continued to operate through annual appropriations since fiscal year 2016.
Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act provided $390 million through FY2024 to support modernization efforts and increase WIC participation outreach.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress introduced waivers for state agencies that removed barriers to access the WIC program and increased the value of WIC benefits, resulting in an overall increase in participation across the United States. These waivers allow for remote services that remove the need to pick up WIC benefits in person, virtual enrollment or re-enrollment, as well as postponement of certain medical exams that may be a barrier to receiving WIC benefits. These state waivers will remain in effect until Sept. 30, 2026.