WIC is not Welfare

7 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Do you WIC? WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children, and is a government program that provides grants to state-run programs that provide healthy food vouchers for many pregnant and nursing women, their babies, and children up to age 5. WIC programs also provide nutritional education and counseling for participants. There are some income requirements to be accepted to the program (185% below the poverty line - in other words, above the poverty line), but WIC is not welfare.

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I participate in a regional moms' messageboard, and I was annoyed with some of the sentiments expressed there about the WIC program and people who participate in it:

If you have seen the movie Cinderella Man, the part where Russell Crowe's character hits bottom and has to borrow to feed his family and then when he gets on his feet again he repays the money he borrowed. That is what I feel WIC/food stamps are for. I think they are wonderful programs, but they are there to assist people when they are going through a rough period. It is those people that  chose to live with WIC/food stamps forever as a life style that really irritates me.

There is a big difference between being helped back onto your feet and being lazy. I know what it's like to dig thru the car's ash tray for milk money... but if your playing the system, shame on you!

For one thing, WIC is unrelated to the welfare/food stamp program. WIC is a nutrition program. WIC is, by definition for mothers, infants, and children, NOT "people going through a rough time," and you can't "live with WIC forever as a lifestyle" because it is limited to pregnant/nursing women and kids up to age 5. To me, these opinions are ill-informed and ignorant. Women who qualify for WIC aren't lazy... they're mothers!! (We all know that you really can't get away with being lazy when you're a mom of small kids!)

The WIC website says that:

  • WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality.
  • WIC reduces low birthweight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy.
  • WIC improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children.
  • WIC decreases the incidence of iron deficiency anemia in children.
  • WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women and improves weight gain in pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women participating in WIC receive prenatal care earlier.
  • Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up to date immunizations.
  • WIC helps get children ready to start school: children who receive WIC benefits demonstrate improved intellectual development.
  • WIC significantly improves children’s diets.

I was introduced to the WIC program from an awesome mom friend of mine who recommended it. She, like me, is happily married (and has been for years), is college educated, and is in her late 20s-early 30s. Her husband works a full-time job, and she is a stay at home mom. Her family is hard-working, and the food vouchers are a much-needed supplement for their three small children.

When my second son was born, and my husband became the sole breadwinner, I decided to enroll.

The process: I looked up my state's WIC website, found the requirements for enrolling and found out that I and my sons were eligible. I called my local office, made an appointment, and took both boys in, along with some required paperwork (their birth certificates, pay stubs, a utility bill to prove we live where we say we live, and maybe a couple other things - can't remember now).

The first appointment: I took all that stuff in, along with the boys, and we all got weighed and measured (yes, even me), and those of us who were over age one (my first son and me) got tested for anemia. We talked to a nutritionist who counseled me on good eating and feeding habits. (Surprisingly, he recommended 1% milk for my 2 year-old, unlike everything else I've read, which says to give kids whole milk. Heh. When I was a kid, I didn't even know there was such a thing as whole milk.) Like I said, I am college educated and in my 30s, and I like to think that I am pretty good at feeding my kids, but it was good to be reminded of some things.

The vouchers: If you are pregnant or nursing an infant under one year old, you qualify for some pretty good vouchers. Infants under one who are breastfed don't get any vouchers until they reach 6 months, when they get vouchers for baby cereal. If you aren't breastfeeding but your kid is under one, you don't get the good vouchers (not sure what you or they get in that circumstance). Once your kid is one year old, and up to five years old, they get a voucher that is similar to the pregnant/nursing woman's voucher. In the summer, each qualifying member over the age of one gets $20 in farmer's market checks (the catch: you have to go down to the farmer's market downtown and pick them up).

One month's WIC foods for our family:
For me:
36 oz of approved cereals
3 lbs cheese
2 dozen eggs
7 cans of frozen or canned juice
5-1/2 gallons of milk
up to 18 oz of peanut butter
1-2 lbs of dried beans or peas
1 lb carrots
up to 26 oz of canned tuna

For my 2 year-old:
36 oz of approved cereals
2 lbs cheese
2 dozen eggs
3 cans of frozen or canned juice
4 gallons of milk
up to 18 oz of peanut butter or 1 lb of dried beans or peas

For my 6 month-old:
2 cans of frozen or canned juice
24 oz of infant cereal

For those of you keeping track, that is 9-1/2 gallons of milk!


Heather Mann is the founder of Dollar Store Crafts (hip crafts at dollar store prices); CraftFail.com, and CROQzine.com.

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