3 advantages to using WIC
As most people know, WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, and is a government run program to help low-income expectant mothers and their children get proper, nutritional food. Since pregnancy and the first five years of a child’s life are very important in the creation of healthy bodies, the program is focused on that age.
If help is still necessary once your children are older than five, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can help get good, wholesome food for your children. WIC, therefore, is a short-term program to help feed infants and children, it is especially useful to offset the cost of formula for non-breastfeeding mothers.
A brief history and overview of WIC
WIC was created by an amendment to the Child Nutrition Act in 1972 and made a permanent program in 1975. Although similar to SNAP, the list of foods allowed to be purchased with WIC vouchers or cards is much more limited and infant specific.
Although foods provided for WIC are set at the Federal level, the states have the leeway to determine whether organic foods fit into WIC categories. In some states, organic milks, cheeses and eggs are allowed.
In addition to providing food, the WIC program is also used as an immunization and health screening process for low income families. Not originally part of their charter, many states have added it to make it easier to document and maintain immunization records.
Obviously, a woman must be pregnant to qualify for WIC. The program also covers infants and children up to five years old, whether they are being breastfeed or not. Although the requirement that the child be at “nutritional risk” is vague, it is still considered in the eligibility review.
The other major requirement is financial status. The family applying for WIC benefits must be at 185 percent of the current federal poverty level. This is based on the yearly income.
Advantages of the WIC program
Like all nutritional assistance programs, the WIC Program has both defenders and detractors. The defenders of the program focus on the help it does for women and children during a specific and important phase and how it is not a permanent entitlement program. WIC has a very specific purpose and devotes its energy and resources to that:
- Nutritional assistance. Participants in WIC are at risk during their formative years and assisting them in getting a proper diet with full nutritional benefits is the point of the program. WIC cannot be used to buy soda, junk food or non-nutritional items like SNAP. The list of allowed foods is restrictive and focused on pregnant women, infants and young children.
- Assistance in buying formula. One of the biggest costs associated with infant care is formula. WIC gives families the assistance to buy formula without having to skimp on other necessary items.
- Immunization and health screening. Many of the participants in WIC cannot afford proper medical attention including immunizations for common childhood diseases. By collecting this information and providing immunization assistance, WIC is filling a key role in our collective health.
There are disadvantages to using WIC, of course. As a government program, you must apply and be interviewed each month to continue it. It has a narrow range of foods, compared to SNAP, that you can buy. There are people in the system who take advantage of it, of course. However, it is smaller and much more focused than SNAP which means that, although abuses still exist, they are smaller and less costly.
For expectant mothers who are not sure how they are going to be able to afford food and formula for their babies, WIC can be an absolute lifesaver.