Acronyms dictionary


[ duhb-uhl-yoo-ahy-see ]

What does WIC mean?

WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC is a United States government-funded program that provides food and other services to low-income pregnant women and nutritional at-risk children up to age five. 

Created in the 1970s, WIC has been a successful program that has increased successful birthrates and has had a positive effect on infant health. In 2020, the WIC continued to provide benefits despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Related words

Medicare for All, Trumpcare

Where does WIC come from?

WIC began as a pilot program in 1972 and became a permanent program in 1974 under P.L. 94-105. It gained its current name thanks to the Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act of 1994, which added the word “nutrition” to the program’s name to emphasize the commitment to healthy nutrition. 

WIC is managed by the Food and Nutrition Service under the supervision of the US Department of Agriculture. The FNS submits a budget to Congress every year, who then decides how much funding to allot to WIC, which is then distributed to the states and US territories through grants. 

As for benefits and services, WIC offers free food in the form of actual food packages or vouchers/cards that can be redeemed at grocery stores (see the note on EBT below). Additionally, WIC highly encourages breast-feeding of infants and offers education and guidance related to this. Finally, WIC offers nutrition education, immunization screenings and referrals, and substance abuse referrals. These benefits and services are provided by a variety of locations that include health clinics, hospitals, schools, and community centers. 

A person must apply for WIC benefits through their state or territorial agency. A person’s eligibility depends on multiple factors including residency, income, and a requirement that a health professional considers the applicant or their child to be at “nutrition risk.” In many states, the WIC provides this assessment free of charge. 

WIC is still offering benefits and services in every state, the District of Columbia, US territories, and 34 Indian Tribal Organizations. WIC continued to offer services even during the COVID-19 pandemic. American mothers living with low income can see if they are eligible for any WIC benefits using their state’s/territory’s website or contacting their local agency.

What are SNAP benefits? 

The Food and Nutrition Service also runs another program similar to WIC called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP, like WIC, also provides food to low-income households although it has different eligibility requirements and isn’t limited to households with young children. So, it is possible for a person to receive benefits from both SNAP and WIC.

SNAP is popularly—and sometimes disparagingly—referred to as “food stamps”; however, the government no longer officially uses this term.

What is EBT?

Both WIC and SNAP make use of a system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a system that provides eligible recipients with an EBT card that resembles a debit card from a bank. Every month, a person’s EBT card is loaded with credit from the government that can be used at authorized stores to spend on pre-approved foods.

Examples of WIC

As single mother, I know WIC helps about 8.2M women & families access healthy foods, nutrition ed & breastfeeding assistance. #WICmatters
@repdonnaedwards, November 4, 2015
Recipients of WIC program struggle to find approved food during pandemic
Brittany McGee and Elise Palmer, Daily Tar Heel (headline), April 22, 2020

Who uses WIC?

WIC often gets discussed in political contexts surrounding the role of the government in fighting hunger and in providing social welfare programs more generally.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of WIC like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of WIC that will help our users expand their word mastery.