Since WIC is administered by each state for its residents, there is some variability in how it works. Participants receive a monthly food benefit based on the number and type of people in the family who qualify for WIC. Some states give participants checks or vouchers, while others give you an electronic benefit card to buy WIC food at participating food stores.
A few state agencies give out food items, either by picking it up at a WIC warehouse or delivery to your home. Since they do not have the ability to store fresh items like fruits, vegetables and dairy, they give WIC participants vouchers to purchase these at a participating store.
The specific foods that you can buy with your WIC benefits are called the WIC food package.
The types of foods included in the WIC food package depend on the age of the child(ren) and whether and how much the mother is breastfeeding.
For example, if a covered child is between one and four years old, the food package includes juice, milk, breakfast cereal, eggs, fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread, canned fish, legumes and peanut butter.
Formula fed babies receive infant formula, and infant cereal, infant fruits and vegetables and infant food meat from ages 6-11 months. For breastfed infants, the food package includes just baby food for infants six months and older but more food for the mother including cheese, canned fish and whole wheat bread plus more juice and eggs.
WIC agency staff members give educational material regarding nutrition, healthcare resources and breastfeeding to participants and may follow up with them periodically to make sure they are on track nutritionally and with pediatric and prenatal appointments. Some WIC agencies also provide classes in nutrition, breastfeeding and parenting and have WIC clinics.