A proper diet is one of the defining factors of a healthy child, and it has an astounding amount of influence on their cognitive and physical development, especially in the early stages of life.
Adequate nourishment is what separates healthy children from those who may experience difficulties later on, and as important as it is, some families simply don’t have the means to provide a nutritional meal for their child as often as they should, or at all.
Babies are this nation’s future, and the federal government is fully aware of how important the next generation is, which is why the WIC program was created, providing pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children, with access to nutritious food and assistance in many other aspects of their lives.
Most importantly, this approach has been proven to be effective, and the results from the past couple of years have shown significant improvements in newborn children and infants.
What is the WIC?
For the past 26 years, Congress has provided funding for this program, allowing it to provide services to all eligible participants without issue, and the $6 billion yearly budget has been more than enough to help keep the program going.
Due to it being funded through an annual appropriation process, no state is actually required to make contributions to the program’s overall funding, meaning that it’s down to the federal government to provide the means for running the WIC program.
Currently, the program offers assistance to breastfeeding mothers, infants, and even children up to the age of 5, so long as a healthcare professional believes them to be at nutritional risk.
Usually, applicants are persons that are placed at nutritional risk due to an inadequate diet, and it’s one of the few requirements other than low-income for entry into the program.
Additional eligibility data
Postpartum mothers are eligible for assistance for 6 months after they’ve given birth to their child, so long as they’re within the federal income guidelines and their nutritional intake is below average.
However, individuals that continue to breastfeed their children past the 6th month can become eligible for assistance lasting up to an entire year, whereas it’s the maximum for young children, after which a trained physician will redetermine their eligibility.
Applicants that aren’t currently receiving any other benefits are required to have their income below 185% of the federal poverty level if they wish to qualify for WIC benefits.
In line with this, individuals already using some other program like SSI, Medicaid, or SNAP, are already eligible for the program, even if their actual income level is far above the guidelines for the WIC program.
Applying for WIC
Most of the time, mothers of young children are referred to the WIC program by their physician, if the medical professional has determined a significant lack of nutrition in the child/mother’s diet.
Usually, people apply for benefits when applying for other programs like the aforementioned few, but you can also apply at the local WIC office, of which there are more than 100k across the nation so far.
Upon applying for the program, the administration will schedule you for a verification appointment, where a well-trained team of experts will determine the validity of the data you’ve provided.
Federal law states that all applicants must be present during these appointments, with the only exception being newborn infants and children whose parents can’t hire a nanny while they’re at work.
Due to the pandemic changing so many things in the past couple of years, WIC administering agencies have slowly made the shift to videoconference or audio calls to conduct these verification appointments, which was met with applause from those applying for the program.
What benefits does the WIC offer?
Services offered by the program are handed out on a federal level, whereas the federal government offers funding to local organizations and governments running the program.
Among the many services WIC has to offer, you’ll find a strong focus on the independence of the women and children that are part of the program, including counseling, nutrition classes, therapy to help you quit smoking, and so on and so forth.
Through the WIC, pregnant women and those with children can also get referrals for health services and social services, so long as they’ve upheld their part of the contract.
Of course, the WIC doesn’t offer all of the food a child may need for proper development, but rather, the foods that would contribute to the overall health of the state, with the majority of the products being bread variants, baby food, infant formula, which has been in low supply in the last couple of years.
On top of this, the USDA has the ability to permanently increase the amount of fruit that Americans consume on a daily basis, all of it as part of a series of updates to WIC.