You're now on the WIC program and have received your first bundle of checks. This article will guide you through the different parts of the check and how to use one in a store.
WIC (an abbreviation for Women, Infants, and Children) is a Federal assistance program in the US that provides nutritional and supplemental food to newborns and children up to the age of 5 who are at a level of nutritional risk, as well as low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women. The program is available in all 50 States, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, America Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth Islands of the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Look at the different sections. Each section has its own use and requirements.
The most important one is the "First Date to Use" and the "Last Date to Use". These two dates are defined as the times that you are allowed to use the checks and when they expire. If the "Last Date to Use" has passed with the check unused, return it to your local WIC office or destroy it.
Food List: The food list is important because it tells you specifically what you can purchase and the amount of each item. There are no substitutions allowed and each food brand item, whether it's cereal, eggs, or juice, needs to be on the WIC Food List -- the brochure you get with your checks that lists the acceptable brands, sizes, and flavors.
Signature area: You'll need to sign this section in front of the cashier. Do not sign prior to using it.
Look at the food list. The descriptions will tell you specifically what you can get. If it says "24-36 oz - Dry Cereal", you may get any combination of approved cereal that adds up to at least 24 but no more than 36 ounces. Most items, however, must match exactly the listed amount, size, and type. For example, "1 dozen large eggs" must be 12 eggs, not 6, 8, or 18; large, not medium or jumbo; and white, not brown or organic. You can also buy fewer items than are on the check, but the check will not be given back to you to buy the remaining items later.
Separate WIC items from regular purchases. Place your WIC items first on the conveyor belt and place the specific WIC check on top of the items. This is to alert the cashier that it is a WIC purchase; some grocery cash registers must ring up WIC purchases in a separate mode. Put a grocery divider after each WIC purchase if you are using more than one check. Also, place a divider between the WIC items and your other groceries.
Present your WIC folder to the cashier. The cashier will need to verify that your signature is on it in order to start the WIC purchase. You may be required to present a valid picture ID, as well.
Sign your WIC check. This is how the store gets paid for the WIC purchase. Some states may require you to sign a receipt, as well. You may or may not get a (second) receipt for your own records, depending on the state and store policy. You probably won't be returning the food to the store (and in some states, it is illegal to try to do so), so having a receipt usually doesn't matter.
The WIC list rules for what is allowed and what is not depends on the state agencies. So it may differ from state to state.
The monthly allowance for each age group is listed here. When you or your child moves onto another level, for example, newborn (0 to 3 months) to infant (4 to 12 months), you may need to submit a new form about diets, weights, medical information and documents, and other required information.
Some stores that accept WIC Checks are labeling the products that qualify for purchase with WIC vouchers. While shopping, keep an eye out for a red sticker on the shelf that says "WIC Approved".
Be considerate of others when you shop. Your check out process will take longer. Try to visit the store in off peak times and double check the items you are getting with the WIC program meet the size and brand requirements before you get in line. Be organized to speed up the check out process. By going at peak times you can slow the check out line and cause others an inconvenience.
Until you become familiar shopping with WIC assistance you may want to visit the store in the late evening or early morning when it isn't so crowded. You'll have time to study the requirements and make sure your purchases match. Try to leave the children at home with a sitter and take time to become familiar with the process.
If you have a question about a product you should ask a store clerk or a manager before you reach the check out line.
Realize some people have a low opinion of WIC users and are suspicious they are manipulating the system. Be aware of the image you project at the store. If someone suspects you are taking advantage of the system they can call and report you. Shopping in a mink coat, with a designer bag or loading your groceries into a luxury car are red flags.
On the other hand, do not let the ignorance of others intimidate you. The WIC program is there to help you get the nutritious food your family needs to stay healthy and you have every right to use them.
Foster children do qualify for WIC. Often foster parents/adoptive parents are not aware of this.
You will need your WIC folder every time you use a check. If you don't, the vendor or store should not accept your purchase.
Never use your WIC checks for someone else. These checks are meant for the child or mother whose name is on the check, and the people assigned on your WIC list.