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Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Former WIC Food Package General FAQs

Last Modified: 11/19/2013

The following materials represent information about the WIC food packages prior to the 10/0/09 implementation of new regulations.  Click here for information about the new food packages.

Frequently Asked WIC Food Package Questions

General Questions

1. How were the WIC-eligible foods chosen for the program?

WIC foods include juice, iron-fortified cereal, eggs, cheese, milk, peanut butter, dried beans or peas, iron-fortified infant formula, tuna, and carrots. Federal regulations specify the minimum nutritional requirements for these WIC-eligible foods. Each of the WIC foods is rich in one or more of the nutrients protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C. These nutrients have been shown to be lacking in the diets of the population WIC serves and are needed to help WIC participants meet their nutritional needs during critical periods of growth and development. The WIC foods are intended to supplement a participant’s nutrient intake and should be consumed along with other wholesome foods needed for a balanced diet.

2. Is there a list of all WIC-eligible foods available?

Although Federal regulations specify the minimum nutritional requirements for the WIC foods, WIC State agencies are responsible for deciding which brands and types of allowable products they wish to include on their State WIC food lists. State agencies are not obligated to authorize every available food that meets WIC requirements. State agency decisions may be influenced by the following factors: cost, product distribution within a State, participant acceptance, and administrative feasibility. Because WIC-eligible foods vary from state to state, there is no consolidated list available.

3. Are WIC food packages consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines to reduce the amounts of fat, cholesterol, and sodium in the diet?

The ability to control the amounts of fat, cholesterol and sodium in the WIC food packages currently exists through nutritional tailoring. The Competent Professional Authority (CPA) in each local WIC agency is responsible for prescribing WIC food packages. To accommodate a participant’s individual nutritional needs, the CPA can make certain modifications in the types and amounts of WIC foods allowed.

For example, to reduce the amount of fat and cholesterol provided by the WIC food package, skim or low-fat milk can be selected, with no cheese substitution for part of the milk quantity. Dried beans and peas can be selected as a low-fat alternative to peanut butter.

The sodium content of the WIC food packages can be modified depending upon participant needs or choices. The selection of all milk and no cheese packages, dried beans and peas or no-salt-added peanut butter, and low sodium cereals can help to reduce the amount of sodium in a participant’s diet.

These represent just a few examples of ways that the WIC food packages can be tailored to follow the advice of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One must also keep in mind that WIC food packages serve to supplement participants’ diets. To effectively control fat, cholesterol and sodium intakes, participants must make wise choices for all the other foods consumed during the day. The education component provided by the WIC program will help participants make the most healthy food choices.

4. Are organic foods WIC-eligible?

The categories of and nutritional requirements for all WIC foods are specified by Federal regulations. Some organic forms of WIC-eligible foods meet these Federal requirements. However, organic foods are often more expensive than non-organic foods. WIC State agencies are responsible for determining the brands and types of foods to authorize on their own State WIC food lists. Some State agencies may allow organic foods on their food lists, but this will vary by State.

5. How does the WIC food package account for participants who have food allergies/intolerances?

The WIC Program works hard to serve a large population that has various nutritional needs, including food allergies/intolerances. However, the foods eligible for the WIC food packages must meet nutritional requirements set by Federal regulations. If a participant has food allergies, WIC staff may tailor food packages to better meet the participant’s individual needs. Types and quantities of foods in the food package may be adjusted to meet individual dietary needs. For example, if a child on WIC is allergic to peanut butter, dried beans/peas may be substituted for the peanut butter. If a pregnant woman on WIC is lactose-intolerant, the food package can be adjusted to include more cheese and/or issue lactose-reduced milk. If an infant on WIC has a medical condition requiring an exempt infant formula, the participant may receive such a formula with appropriate medical documentation.