WIC is administered at the Federal level by USDA's Food and
Nutrition Service (FNS) and is administered at the local level
by 90 WIC State agencies covering all 50 States, the District of
Columbia, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, American Samoa, Guam,
Commonwealth Islands of the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the
U.S. Virgin Islands.
To qualify for WIC, an applicant must be either a pregnant or
postpartum (up to one year if breastfeeding or 6 months if not
breastfeeding) woman, an infant younger than age one, or a child up
to his or her fifth birthday. WIC applicants must have family
income at or below 185 percent of the U.S. poverty level or
participate in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,
formerly the Food Stamp Program), Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) Program. Applicants must also meet a
State residency requirement and be at nutritional risk, as
determined by a health professional, such as a physician,
nutritionist, or nurse.
WIC is not an entitlement program--that is, Congress does not
set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate
in the program--but a Federal grant program for which Congress
authorizes a specific amount of funding each year for program
Cost-containment practices--especially infant formula
rebates--play a major role in increasing the number of participants
the WIC program can serve. WIC State agencies are legally required
to enter into cost-containment contracts for the purchase of infant
formula used in WIC. After competitive bidding, WIC State agencies
typically award a contract to a single manufacturer of infant
formula for the exclusive right to provide its product to WIC
participants. In return, WIC State agencies obtain significant
discounts in the form of rebates from infant formula manufacturers.
In fiscal 2011, infant formula rebates totaled about $1.3 billion
and supported about one in every six WIC participants.
In 2009, all States implemented revised WIC food packages per
FNS Interim Rule. Seven different food packages are provided
for different categories of participants. All packages provide
foods that are high in one or more of the following nutrients:
protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
Additional information on WIC is available at the FNS
Additional reports on WIC are available at the National Academies Press website.
Related information is available from the following
- USDA's National Agricultural Library (NAL) provides two
resources to facilitate the exchange and sharing of information
among individuals involved in WIC or other maternal, infant, and
child health programs:
- WIC-Talk is an e-mail discussion group. To subscribe, click here.