The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides available Federal grants to States to provide supplemental foods, healthcare referrals, and nutritional education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. It also is also focused on helping their infants and children up to five years old that are found to be at a  nutritional risk.


WIC funds are generally allocated through these agencies:

  • County health departments
  • Hospitals
  • Mobile clinics (vans)
  • Community centers
  • Schools
  • Public housing sites
  • Migrant health centers and camps
  • Indian Health Service facilities

ABOUT WIC: Quick Overview

Population Served:

The WIC targeted population are low-income, nutritionally at risk:

  • Pregnant women (through pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after birth or after pregnancy ends)

  • Breastfeeding women (up to infant’s 1st birthday)

  • Non-breastfeeding postpartum women (up to 6 months after the birth of an infant or after pregnancy ends)

  • Infants (up to 1st birthday)

  • Children (up to their 5th birthday)

How Many Are Served?

During Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, the amount of women, infants, and children that were receiving WIC benefits each month accounted for approximately 8.0 million. During the first 3 months of FY 2016, States had already reported an average participation on a monthly basis for over 7.8 million participating per month. Just to show how far this program has come, in 1974 the year WIC first became permanent, only 88,000 people participated. In 1980, that gained up to 1.8 million participants; come 1985, 3.1 million; by 1990, 4.5 million; and by the year 2000, there had been 7 million participants.

Out of all these years, children have always been the categorical majority of WIC participants. In FY 2015, of the 8.0 million receiving benefits, about 4.16 million were children (according to WIC program data).


The following benefits are provided to WIC participants:

  • Supplemental nutritional foods  (food benefits that are available)

  • Nutrition education and counseling provided at WIC clinics

  • Screenings and referrals to other health, welfare, and social services

Program Delivery

WIC is not an entitlement program by any means. Congress does not set aside funds to allow every eligible individual to participate in the program, as that is why criteria and eligibility requirements are set in place. WIC is a Federal grant program for which Congress authorizes a specific amount of funds each year for the program. WIC is

  • administered at the Federal level by FNS

  • administered by 90 WIC state agencies, through approximately 47,000 authorized retailers.  

  • operated through 1,900 local agencies in 10,000 clinic sites, in 50 State health departments, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, the District of Columbia, and five territories (Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).

WIC services are provided in places like:

  • county health departments

  • hospitals

  • mobile clinics (vans)

  • community centers

  • schools

  • public housing sites

  • migrant health centers and camps

  • Indian Health Service facilities

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