What is WIC?
WIC, the Women, Infants, and Children Program is a nutrition program that helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children eat well and stay healthy.
WIC Program Detailed Description
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program is a supplemental food and nutrition program for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and children under age five who have a nutritional risk.
We will provide to women, infants, and children healthy food, and the knowledge and opportunity to make healthy choices in an atmosphere of dignity and respect, thus enhancing the potential for all Californians to enjoy an higher quality of life.
Promote family success through integrated nutrition, health and community services. An investment in California's greatest resources...our children.
The goal of the WIC program is to decrease the risk of poor birth outcomes and to improve the health of participants during critical times of growth and development. To meet this goal, we provide nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion, medical care referrals, and specific supplemental nutritious foods which are high in protein and/or iron. The specific nutritious foods provided to participants include peanut butter, beans, milk, cheese, eggs, iron-fortified cereal, iron-fortified infant formula and juices.
WIC is unique among federally administered programs in that it provides specific supplemental nutritious food and nutrition education to a specific target population as a short-term intervention and adjunct to ongoing health care. The supplemental foods provided by the WIC program are designed to meet the participants enhanced dietary needs for specific nutrients during brief but critical periods of physiological development. It is "short term", in that, on average, WIC participants receive services for approximately two years.
Numerous scientific studies show that pregnant women who participate in the WIC program seek earlier prenatal care and consume a healthier diet. The improved nutrition and nutrition education provided to enrolled women and children result in longer pregnancies, few and very low birth weight babies, and fewer fetal and infant deaths. This translates into enormous savings in health care dollars. Specifically, after reviewing 17 cost benefit studies, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) published a report in 1992 that found that WIC saved $3.50 for every $1.00 spent on WIC. Most of the savings, or approximately $2.89, was saved in the first year of life. The GAO also noted that additional savings could be realized if more pregnant women were enrolled on the program. They conservatively estimated an overall savings of $51 million in federal and state health care funds if WIC served all eligible pregnant women. For example, it costs $544 a year for a pregnant woman to participate in WIC. By contrast, it costs the tax payers $22,000 per pound to nurture a low birth weight baby (less than 5.5 pounds) to the normal weight of 7 pounds in a neonatal intensive care unit. WIC prenatal benefits reduce the rate of very low birth weight babies by 44 percent.
Working families are among the most unlikely to know of WIC services since they often believe they are not eligible because they work. The WIC program has used a media campaign in California to increase awareness of the WIC program among working families who may qualify for the program. Many of California's working families receive low wages that do not allow them to purchase sufficient healthy foods for themselves and their families or to adequately access preventive health care services such as immunizations. Our goal is to encourage these families to participate in WIC and to benefit from improved nutrition, nutrition counseling, and medical care referrals while saving taxpayer dollars.
WIC received federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. California contracts with 82 local county and private non-profit agencies to deliver WIC services at the local level through over 650 local WIC centers. WIC has been well received by policy makers over the last several years. Significant funding increases have allowed WIC to grow from serving 520,000 participants a month in 1991 to over 1.2 million participants per month in 1998. In the last few years, Congress has "level funded" the program and has provided no funding for program expansion. To maintain the level of services, the WIC program has entered into over $200 million in innovative rebate contacts with juice, infant formula, and infant cereal manufacturers. This allows California WIC to serve about 400,000 additional women and children at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
WIC is available to low income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and children under age five who are at nutritional risk and who are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The income guidelines for a family of four are $41,348 or $3,446 monthly (effective through June 30, 2012). Many people incorrectly view WIC as a welfare program because participants must be members of a low-income family. In fact, over 50 percent of the women and children on WIC in California are members of a family where one or both parents work outside the home.
Who Can WIC Help?
Women and their children who need better nutrition and who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or just had a baby
Children under 5 years old (including foster children)
Families with a low to medium income. Working families may qualify.
Call to make an appoinment and find out which documents you need to bring with you. At your appoinment, WIC staff will check to see if you and your family qualify.
Do I qualify?
Generally, WIC is available to low income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women and children under age five who are at nutritional risk and who are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. (See Income Guidelinetable). Contact your local WIC office to make an appointment and find out which documents you need to bring with you. At your appointment, WIC staff will check to see if you and your family qualify.
What Can You Get at WIC?
Special checks to buy healthy foods such as milk, juice, eggs, cheese, cereal, dry beans and peas, and peanut butter.
- Information about nutrition and health to help you and your family eat well and be healthy.
- Support and information about breastfeeding your baby.
- Help in finding health care and other community services.
For a complete list of foods go to http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/wicworks/Pages/default.aspx
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WIC offers support and information about breastfeeding your baby.
The California WIC Program promotes, supports and protects exclusive breastfeeding for approximately the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding for at least the first year. We also have trained staff that will help you with any breastfeeding challenges you may be having so that your infant can get the best nutrition possible.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding Saves Lives
- Lack of breastfeeding is a risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Human milk protects premature infants from life-threatening gastrointestinal disease
- Breastfed children have lower risk of dying before their first birthday
Breastfed Infants are Healthier
- Formula fed infants have twice the risk of having ear infections in the first year than infants who are exclusively breastfed for at least 4 months
Breastfeeding reduces the incidence, and lessens the severity of a large number of infections, including pneumonia and meningitis in infants
- Breastfeeding protects infants against a variety of illnesses, such as diarrhea and infant botulism. Breastfed babies have less chance of allergies, asthma and eczema
- Evidence suggests that exclusive breastfeeding for at least two months protects susceptible children from Type I insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (DDM)
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk for subsequent inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and childhood cancers.
Breastfeeding Helps Mothers Recover from Childbirth
Breastfeeding Keeps Women Healthier Throughout Their Lives
Breastfeeding is Economical
Breastfeeding is Environmentally Sound
- Unlike infant formula, breastfeeding requires no fossil fuels for its manufacture or preparation
- Breastfeeding reduces pollutants created as by-products during the manufacture of plastics for bottles and metal for cans to contain infant formula
- Breastfeeding reduces the burden on our landfills, as there are no cans to throw away
WIC can help you with breastfeeding. Find out if you qualify.
WIC serves low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding and new moms, and children under 5 years old.
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice or TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.