National WIC Association

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Is WIC an entitlement program?

No. WIC is a domestic discretionary program, which means it does not necessarily receive funds from Congress to serve every person that is eligible for WIC. Instead, WIC receives a specific amount of grant money each year which Congress designates.


Is WIC temporary?

Yes, WIC is only for pregnant and post-partum women, infants, and children up to age 5.


Where can I find statistics and outcomes of the WIC Program?

Where can I find an extensive history of the WIC Program?

The USDA has an informative publication: The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Issues. Also, watch this video: Saving the Children: The Story of WIC.


How are WIC agencies funded and operated?

WIC is a federal grant program funded by Congressional appropriations to States, territories, and tribal organizations. Some of these entities supplement their federal grant with their own funds. Each of these entities issues grants to their own network of community-based providers (local agencies), e.g. health departments, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations.

Some of these local clinics are government run while others are not. However, the non-government run clinics are not necessarily small in size. In fact, one of the largest local agencies in the country is run by a local nonprofit agency. See a visual diagram of the WIC funding process.


What's the difference between State and Local WIC agencies?

State WIC agencies receive funding from USDA to administer the WIC program in their state. The 50 US states, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Marianas Islands and Guam make up the 90 state WIC agencies. State WIC agencies receive funding and policy guidance from USDA and distribute that to their local agencies.

Local agencies receive funding from state WIC agencies to serve WIC families. Many local agencies run multiple WIC sites. Some agencies are run by county or local governments, while others are run by non-profits and hospitals.


Which foods does WIC provide?

WIC provides specific foods to supplement the dietary needs of participants to ensure good health and development. Food packages typically include iron-fortified infant cereal, milk, cheese, eggs, whole grains, peanut butter, beans, fruits, vegetables, and juice. See a list of WIC foods.


What does the WIC program do?

WIC agencies provide nutrition screening and education, specific supplemental foods, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and social services for income-eligible women who are pregnant or post-partum, infants, and children up to age 5.


What does WIC stand for?

WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).


How do I log in?

Members can log in through the “Log-in” link at the top right area of the website.

New Accounts

a. Go to NWICA.org
b. Click “Log-in” at the top of the page
c. Where it says “Don't have an account?” Click “Register here”
d. Fill out the Individual Account info and click “Register” at the bottom when done
e. When you’re done, call us at 202-232-5492 and say, “I need to be linked to my organization.” We must link you in order for you to receive member benefits.

Lost/Forgotten Password

a. Go to “Log-in” at the top of the page
b. Click “Forgot your Password”
c. Enter your email
d. You will receive an email with a link to set your password


Who are Business Council Partners?

NWA partners with public and private organizations and corporations to ensure the continuing success of the WIC Program. Each of our Business Council Partners values the WIC Program and is an essential part of the NWA community. Learn more about each of our Business Council Partners.


When are member fees due?

NWA membership runs January 1 – December 31, and fees are typically collected August through November. If membership dues are not received by Jan 2nd, membership benefits may be temporarily suspended until dues are paid.


What if I forgot my password?

There is a “forgot password” feature that will appear when you click the Log-in link at the top right of the website. It will guide you through resetting your password.


How do I become a member?

See our Apply/Renew page and/or contact us at membership@nwica.org or 202-232-5492. Learn more on our Membership Benefits page. We look forward to partnering with you!


What is the demographic breakdown of WIC clients who breastfeed?

According to 2014 WIC Program and Participant Characteristics Report, 38% of Asian only women breastfed, 35% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander reported breastfeeding, 32% of white women breastfed, 33% of American Indian or Alaskan Native women breastfed, 33% of women who reported being two or more races breastfed and 27% of Black or African American women breastfed. 36% of Hispanic/Latino moms reported breastfeeding.


What is the US Government’s position on the WHO International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes?

Although CDC recognizes the WHO Code as an effective breastfeeding intervention, it is not legally binding in the United States.


Does NWA endorse the WHO International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes?

The National WIC Association (NWA) endorses the WHO Code and assumes a leadership role in supporting the recommendations in the Code through the WIC Program. An official statement on the WHO Code can be found here.


Have breastfeeding initiation rates changed in WIC?

Breastfeeding initiation rates are on the rise in WIC. Between 1998 and 2014, breastfeeding initiation in WIC has increased by 66.7%.


How many women in WIC breastfeed?

According to the 2014 WIC Program and Participant Characteristics Report, 70% of WIC moms initiated breastfeeding.


What is the role of infant formula in WIC?

The provision of supplemental iron-fortified infant formula serves as a safety net to partially breastfed and non-breastfed infants who may not otherwise have access to adequate nutrition. For more information on the role of infant formula in WIC, see this blog post.


What does WIC provide to support breastfeeding?

The WIC program provides multiple services to support breastfeeding. These services include breastfeeding peer counselors, lactation consultants, classes and support groups, educational materials, and breastfeeding telephone support services. Many agencies provides or loan breastpumps to participants. For more information on breastfeeding in WIC, see this infographic.


What type of training does WIC staff receive in order to support breastfeeding?

WIC staff undergo training specifically for supporting WIC moms on their breastfeeding journey. The Loving Support curriculum, created by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) branch of USDA, is used to train WIC staff nationwide on the basics of breastfeeding. The Loving Support curriculum is currently in the process of being updated and NWA is assisting in these efforts.


Why is normalizing breastfeeding the gold standard for infant feeding?

Breastfeeding is the preferred and recommended way to feed infants. In addition, it provides health benefits for both mom and baby. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk for certain types of cancer including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk for type II diabetes and postpartum depression. Breastfed infants are at a reduced risk for obesity, type II diabetes, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome. They also have lower rates of respiratory infections.

We endorse the American Academy of Pediatrics' Policy Statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” (2012), which states “Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”

NWA promotes exclusive breastfeeding for infant feeding, with the addition of appropriate complementary foods when the infant is developmentally ready, usually around six months of age. All WIC staff have a role in promoting and providing support for the successful initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.


Without formula manufacturers at NWA conferences, how will attendees learn about formula in WIC?

In the near term, infant formula companies will continue to provide product information via their websites and to the WIC agency staff directly. WIC nutrition staff are well equipped to determine the efficacy of claims made by these companies.

Longer term, the National WIC Association Board of Directors and Staff have pledged to identify independent infant formula educators to provide training on infant feeding practices. Through webinars, conferences and other educational programs, NWA members will have many opportunities to learn about infant formula.


Why did NWA sever ties with infant formula manufacturers and what are the implications of this decision?

NWA supports and promotes WIC as the nation’s Go-to-Breastfeeding Program. The decision to sever ties follows a series of actions including advocating for increased funding for breastfeeding support and counseling, funding for lactation support professionals including IBCLCs at the state and local level, encouraging local agencies to adopt the NWA Six Steps to Achieve Breastfeeding Goals for WIC Clinics, and building partnerships with other public health organizations and the USDA to encourage breastfeeding.

Severing ties with infant formula manufacturers is the next step in this progression. More information about this decision is available here. This action to sever ties with infant formula manufacturers will support WIC as the nation’s leading breastfeeding program. NWA does not foresee any negative consequences on the WIC program as a result of this action.

Historically, infant formula manufacturers have been sustaining members of the association, exhibited at conferences, advertised, and sponsored events and activities. The resolution to sever ties with infant formula manufacturers was passed by NWA voting members at NWA’s 2015 Annual Business Meeting. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is a separate entity from NWA and was not involved in this decision.


What is the role of Infant Formula Manufacturers in WIC?

Each state WIC program has a contract with an infant formula manufacturer to provide infant formula within that state. Infant Formula Manufacturers competitively bid for state contracts. The successful bidder/contractor offers rebates to the state for purchases of infant formula provided in the formula fed and partially breastfeeding WIC food packages. Rebates can be as high as 98% and are a successful cost containment strategy for WIC. Formula manufacturers provide nearly $2 billion in rebates to the WIC program annually. More information on the role of infant formula manufacturers in WIC can be found here.


Does NWA administer WIC?

No. WIC is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FNS provides funding and policy guidance, and creates regulations for WIC. NWA is an independent organization from USDA/FNS.


What is the mission of NWA?

The National WIC Association (NWA) is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the more than 7 million mothers and young children served by WIC and the 12,000 service provider sites who are the front lines of WIC’s public health nutrition services for the nation’s nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children.

Our mission is to inspire and empower the WIC community to advocate for and promote quality nutrition services for all eligible mothers and young children and assure effective management of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

NWA's efforts on behalf of the WIC Program have been effective in gaining bipartisan support in Congress, the support of successive Administrations, and a broad coalition of partners, including advocacy groups, health care and religious organizations, and industry representatives.


How do I log in?

Members can log in through the “Log-in” link at the top right area of the website.

New Accounts

a. Go to NWICA.org
b. Click “Log-in” at the top of the page
c. Where it says “Don't have an account?” Click “Register here”
d. Fill out the Individual Account info and click “Register” at the bottom when done
e. When you’re done, call us at 202-232-5492 and say, “I need to be linked to my organization.” We must link you in order for you to receive member benefits.

Lost/Forgotten Password

a. Go to “Log-in” at the top of the page
b. Click “Forgot your Password”
c. Enter your email
d. You will receive an email with a link to set your password


Is WIC an entitlement program?

No. WIC is a domestic discretionary program, which means it does not necessarily receive funds from Congress to serve every person that is eligible for WIC. Instead, WIC receives a specific amount of grant money each year which Congress designates.


Is WIC temporary?

Yes, WIC is only for pregnant and post-partum women, infants, and children up to age 5.


Where can I find statistics and outcomes of the WIC Program?

Where can I find an extensive history of the WIC Program?

The USDA has an informative publication: The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Issues. Also, watch this video: Saving the Children: The Story of WIC.


How are WIC agencies funded and operated?

WIC is a federal grant program funded by Congressional appropriations to States, territories, and tribal organizations. Some of these entities supplement their federal grant with their own funds. Each of these entities issues grants to their own network of community-based providers (local agencies), e.g. health departments, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations.

Some of these local clinics are government run while others are not. However, the non-government run clinics are not necessarily small in size. In fact, one of the largest local agencies in the country is run by a local nonprofit agency. See a visual diagram of the WIC funding process.


What's the difference between State and Local WIC agencies?

State WIC agencies receive funding from USDA to administer the WIC program in their state. The 50 US states, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Marianas Islands and Guam make up the 90 state WIC agencies. State WIC agencies receive funding and policy guidance from USDA and distribute that to their local agencies.

Local agencies receive funding from state WIC agencies to serve WIC families. Many local agencies run multiple WIC sites. Some agencies are run by county or local governments, while others are run by non-profits and hospitals.


Which foods does WIC provide?

WIC provides specific foods to supplement the dietary needs of participants to ensure good health and development. Food packages typically include iron-fortified infant cereal, milk, cheese, eggs, whole grains, peanut butter, beans, fruits, vegetables, and juice. See a list of WIC foods.


What does the WIC program do?

WIC agencies provide nutrition screening and education, specific supplemental foods, breastfeeding support, and referrals to healthcare and social services for income-eligible women who are pregnant or post-partum, infants, and children up to age 5.


What does WIC stand for?

WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).


How can I support the National WIC Association?

There are many ways you can support NWA and its mission. You can join NWA as a member, your company can exhibit and sponsor at our conferences, and you can serve on a task force or committee.  You can help to advance NWA’s policy agenda by sharing NWA’s key advocacy messages and resources with your members of Congress. Thank you for your support!


How do I share my WIC story?

If you have a WIC story to share, please email info@nwica.org. We collect stories from WIC participants and WIC staff to showcase how WIC positively affects our nation.


Who are Business Council Partners?

NWA partners with public and private organizations and corporations to ensure the continuing success of the WIC Program. Each of our Business Council Partners values the WIC Program and is an essential part of the NWA community. Learn more about each of our Business Council Partners.


When are member fees due?

NWA membership runs January 1 – December 31, and fees are typically collected August through November. If membership dues are not received by Jan 2nd, membership benefits may be temporarily suspended until dues are paid.


What if I forgot my password?

There is a “forgot password” feature that will appear when you click the Log-in link at the top right of the website. It will guide you through resetting your password.


How do I become a member?

See our Apply/Renew page and/or contact us at membership@nwica.org or 202-232-5492. Learn more on our Membership Benefits page. We look forward to partnering with you!


Does NWA have exhibit or sponsorship opportunities?

Yes, read the exhibitor prospectus of the conference you’re interested in to learn more. Upcoming events are listed on our Events page. For sponsorship opportunities outside of exhibiting, please contact Shameka Jennings at sjennings@nwica.org.


How do I register for a conference?

Go to Events on the main menu, click on the upcoming event you'd like to attend and click the Register button located on the Event page. Please feel free to contact us with questions and for assistance at registration@nwica.org or 202-232-5492.


Does NWA provide legal advocacy assistance?

How do I apply for WIC?

You need to go into a local WIC agency to apply. To see if you might be eligible, you can use this online tool. If you are eligible or have questions, contact your local WIC agency. To find the nearest agency, go to Signupwic.com.


What’s the difference between the National WIC Association (NWA) and WIC?

WIC is a Federal nutrition program funded by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); NWA is not a government organization, it is a nonprofit that advocates for the WIC Program. NWA is also a member association, and most of its members are WIC agencies. 


Authorized Vendor

A store must be authorized by the WIC Program to accept WIC payment methods.


Breastfeeding Peer Counselor

WIC breastfeeding peer counselors are mothers recruited from the WIC population who have personal experience with breastfeeding and can provide basic breastfeeding information and support to other WIC mothers. WIC peer counselors are hired and trained to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-on-one counseling through phone calls or visits to the home, clinic, or hospital.


Cash Value Voucher

A paper food instrument (check or voucher) or EBT card with a specific cash value ($10 for women and $6 for children) that can only be used to obtain WIC-specific fruits and vegetables.


Certification period

A certification period is the length of time a WIC participant is eligible to receive benefits. Depending on whether the individual is pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant, or a child, an eligible individual usually receives WIC benefits from 6 months to a year, at which time she/he must reapply.


CPA

Competent Professional Authority (CPA): These are WIC staff trained to determine a participant's nutritional risk and prescribe supplemental foods. In WIC, this is often a dietitian or nutritionist.


EBT

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT): WIC consumers use paper food instruments or a card (that looks like a debit-card) to redeem their WIC foods – the card system is called Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). EBT makes the shopping experience easier for the consumer and the grocery store. Unfortunately, only a small number of States currently have EBT. Recent WIC cuts have slowed other states' efforts to implement EBT. USDA has a map of EBT status among States.


Food Instrument

A check, voucher, electronic benefit transfer (EBT) authorization, or other payment method that is issued to the participant to obtain specific foods allowed under the WIC program.


Food Package

The "Food Package" refers to the designated foods that WIC participants redeem from the grocery. WIC only allows certain healthy foods selected to supplement the participant's diet. These foods are recommended by the Institute of medicine (IOM) and are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as well as the nationally established dietary recommendations for infants and children under two years of age. The foods included in an individual's food package vary based on the participant's category.


Local Agency

These are community based agencies that manage applications, certifications and deliver WIC services and benefits. They are often located in health departments and hospitals (See State Agency).


Nutrition Education

The WIC Program is the only FNS nutrition assistance program with legislative and regulatory requirements to provide nutrition education to participants. The goals of WIC nutrition education are to:

  • emphasize the relationship between nutrition, physical activity, and health with special emphasis on the nutritional needs of pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants and children under five years of age; and
  • assist the individual who is at nutritional risk in achieving a positive change in dietary and physical activity habits, resulting in improved nutritional status and in the prevention of nutrition-related problems through optimal use of the WIC supplemental foods and other nutritious foods.

Priority System

Since WIC is a domestic discretionary program, not an entitlement program, it may not receive funds from Congress to serve every eligible applicant. In these cases, WIC uses an Eligibility Priority System to ensure services are provided first to those most in need.


State Agency

These are state level agencies that manage grants and set policy for Local agencies. They typically do not directly service WIC participants, however, some State agencies function as both the State and Local agency. State agencies receive grants along with any funding or policy guidance from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). There is one State agency in each of the geographic U.S. States, the District of Columbia, in 36 Indian Tribal Organizations, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.


Supplemental

The WIC Food Package is meant to supplement the dietary needs of participants by helping to ensure vital nutrients are consumed for good health, growth and development. It is not meant to support the participant’s entire dietary needs for the certified time period.


Verification of Certification (VOC)

When a WIC participant moves from one state to another, the WIC clinic can provide a Verification of Certification form to take to the new state’s WIC clinic. It serves as proof of eligibility for WIC benefits, and is valid until the participant’s certification period expires.


What is the demographic breakdown of WIC clients who breastfeed?

According to 2014 WIC Program and Participant Characteristics Report, 38% of Asian only women breastfed, 35% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander reported breastfeeding, 32% of white women breastfed, 33% of American Indian or Alaskan Native women breastfed, 33% of women who reported being two or more races breastfed and 27% of Black or African American women breastfed. 36% of Hispanic/Latino moms reported breastfeeding.


What is the US Government’s position on the WHO International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes?

Although CDC recognizes the WHO Code as an effective breastfeeding intervention, it is not legally binding in the United States.


Have breastfeeding initiation rates changed in WIC?

Breastfeeding initiation rates are on the rise in WIC. Between 1998 and 2014, breastfeeding initiation in WIC has increased by 66.7%.


How many women in WIC breastfeed?

According to the 2014 WIC Program and Participant Characteristics Report, 70% of WIC moms initiated breastfeeding.


What is the role of infant formula in WIC?

The provision of supplemental iron-fortified infant formula serves as a safety net to partially breastfed and non-breastfed infants who may not otherwise have access to adequate nutrition. For more information on the role of infant formula in WIC, see this blog post.


What does WIC provide to support breastfeeding?

The WIC program provides multiple services to support breastfeeding. These services include breastfeeding peer counselors, lactation consultants, classes and support groups, educational materials, and breastfeeding telephone support services. Many agencies provides or loan breastpumps to participants. For more information on breastfeeding in WIC, see this infographic.


What type of training does WIC staff receive in order to support breastfeeding?

WIC staff undergo training specifically for supporting WIC moms on their breastfeeding journey. The Loving Support curriculum, created by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) branch of USDA, is used to train WIC staff nationwide on the basics of breastfeeding. The Loving Support curriculum is currently in the process of being updated and NWA is assisting in these efforts.


Why is normalizing breastfeeding the gold standard for infant feeding?

Breastfeeding is the preferred and recommended way to feed infants. In addition, it provides health benefits for both mom and baby. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk for certain types of cancer including breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk for type II diabetes and postpartum depression. Breastfed infants are at a reduced risk for obesity, type II diabetes, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome. They also have lower rates of respiratory infections.

We endorse the American Academy of Pediatrics' Policy Statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” (2012), which states “Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”

NWA promotes exclusive breastfeeding for infant feeding, with the addition of appropriate complementary foods when the infant is developmentally ready, usually around six months of age. All WIC staff have a role in promoting and providing support for the successful initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.


Without formula manufacturers at NWA conferences, how will attendees learn about formula in WIC?

In the near term, infant formula companies will continue to provide product information via their websites and to the WIC agency staff directly. WIC nutrition staff are well equipped to determine the efficacy of claims made by these companies.

Longer term, the National WIC Association Board of Directors and Staff have pledged to identify independent infant formula educators to provide training on infant feeding practices. Through webinars, conferences and other educational programs, NWA members will have many opportunities to learn about infant formula.


Why did NWA sever ties with infant formula manufacturers and what are the implications of this decision?

NWA supports and promotes WIC as the nation’s Go-to-Breastfeeding Program. The decision to sever ties follows a series of actions including advocating for increased funding for breastfeeding support and counseling, funding for lactation support professionals including IBCLCs at the state and local level, encouraging local agencies to adopt the NWA Six Steps to Achieve Breastfeeding Goals for WIC Clinics, and building partnerships with other public health organizations and the USDA to encourage breastfeeding.

Severing ties with infant formula manufacturers is the next step in this progression. More information about this decision is available here. This action to sever ties with infant formula manufacturers will support WIC as the nation’s leading breastfeeding program. NWA does not foresee any negative consequences on the WIC program as a result of this action.

Historically, infant formula manufacturers have been sustaining members of the association, exhibited at conferences, advertised, and sponsored events and activities. The resolution to sever ties with infant formula manufacturers was passed by NWA voting members at NWA’s 2015 Annual Business Meeting. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is a separate entity from NWA and was not involved in this decision.


What is the role of Infant Formula Manufacturers in WIC?

Each state WIC program has a contract with an infant formula manufacturer to provide infant formula within that state. Infant Formula Manufacturers competitively bid for state contracts. The successful bidder/contractor offers rebates to the state for purchases of infant formula provided in the formula fed and partially breastfeeding WIC food packages. Rebates can be as high as 98% and are a successful cost containment strategy for WIC. Formula manufacturers provide nearly $2 billion in rebates to the WIC program annually. More information on the role of infant formula manufacturers in WIC can be found here.


Does NWA administer WIC?

No. WIC is administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). FNS provides funding and policy guidance, and creates regulations for WIC. NWA is an independent organization from USDA/FNS.


What is the mission of NWA?

The National WIC Association (NWA) is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the more than 7 million mothers and young children served by WIC and the 12,000 service provider sites who are the front lines of WIC’s public health nutrition services for the nation’s nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children.

Our mission is to inspire and empower the WIC community to advocate for and promote quality nutrition services for all eligible mothers and young children and assure effective management of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

NWA's efforts on behalf of the WIC Program have been effective in gaining bipartisan support in Congress, the support of successive Administrations, and a broad coalition of partners, including advocacy groups, health care and religious organizations, and industry representatives.