Foods like peanut butter, cheese, and eggs might have a 'WIC' label in your grocery store. Here's what it means and why you should avoid buying those items if you can.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider
  • While businesses like movie theatres and restaurants have suffered because of the coronavirus outbreak, there has been a significant boost in foot traffic at grocery stores.
  • To keep up with the demand and protect those more vulnerable to the virus, some major grocery store chains like Target and Whole Foods have special hours for the elderly and the vulnerable.
  • Some special items have a small sticker, usually next to the price, demarcating them as “WIC” items. WIC is a federal program designed to provide support to low-income women, children, and infants who are considered nutritionally at-risk.
  • Here’s why it’s important to pay attention to the label and to try to avoid a WIC product if you’re not on the program.
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WIC is a federal program that helps out low-income women, infants, and children who are at nutritional risk.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider

Source: Eater


The program is meant to serve pregnant women and new mothers, as well as newborn babies and children up to five years old. According to the Food and Nutrition Service, more than half of all newborns in the US are served by WIC.

chomplearn/Shutterstock

Source: USDA


The goal of the program is to protect these groups against disorders caused by nutrition deficiency like anemia, as well as other pregnancy complications.

Getty Images

Source: USDA


WIC food items normally include staples like baby formula, cheese, milk, fruits and vegetables, and peanut butter. These are fairly strict guidelines around what one cannot purchase through benefits on the program.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider

Source: USDA


A mother on WIC told BuzzFeed News that it is hard not knowing if what she needs for her family will be available at the store. “I skip having a glass of milk with them at dinner or not have any fruit so I can make sure they are getting enough,” she said.

Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Source: BuzzFeed News


Last week, officials in Dallas, Texas, asked people who aren’t on WIC benefits to put off their non-essential grocery shopping until after the third of the month. While different states control the timeline along which these benefits are distributed, in Texas, like Massachusetts and Connecticut, the benefits reload at the beginning of the month.

Reuters

Source: KHOU/CBS, Mass.gov,CT.gov,National WIC Association


Adam Metron, a Dallas city council representative, took to Facebook, where he wrote the following message: “WIC benefits come to low-income families at the first of the month and there will be a surge as these families redeem them. Many of these families’ benefits were depleted more quickly because children are staying home from school and some families are going hungry right now.”

Associated Press

Source: Eater


Val Demings, a member of the Florida House of Representatives spoke in a similar vein last month. “During your grocery shopping, please avoid items marked ‘WIC.’ These are the only things available to low-income mothers with young children. They can’t be substituted,” Demings said. These labels will have the word “Women, Infants & Children” written on them.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider

Source: Twitter


WIC eligibility has very strict income guidelines. As of 2020, an individual must have a weekly pre-tax income of $US445 to qualify, while a family of four must have a pre-tax income of $US917.

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As of April 2020, people under the program can exchange vouchers and paper checks for approved foods but, according to the USDA, there are plans to instate a nationwide electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card later in the year.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: USDA


The program is available in all states and territories including American Samoa, Indian Tribal Organisations, and Puerto Rico. It is funded by the federal government and administered through 90 state agencies.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider

Source: USDA


A USDA spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that while states have the flexibility to make changes to their WIC-approved items list, people participating in the program can only go by what’s approved in the state.

Debanjali Bose/Business Insider

Source: BuzzFeed News

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