WIC changes could help more families

Published 3:07 am Friday, May 12, 2023

A recent change in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infant and Childrens (WIC) could make more Alabama families eligible for food assistance. 

Alabama’s WIC director Allison Hatchett said that under the new guidelines, families living within 185% of the federal poverty level could now receive additional benefits for each family member. Hatchett explained that pregnant women, women who have had a baby within the past 6 months, or current parents or guardians of a child 5 years or younger should check to see if they qualify for assistance.

Senior policy analyst Carol Gundlach with Alabama Arise said the federal government is making the adjustments because of the shifting level of financial need among residents in the state. Gundlach said WIC is very instrumental in helping maintain the health of women and their children. 

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“Research shows WIC helps reduce low birth weights among babies of families using WIC. It improves an infant’s ability to thrive, it improves a pregnant woman’s health and her ability to have healthy babies, and it has been linked to childrens’ success in school,” Gundlach said.

U.S. Census Bureau data showed that in 2021, 16.1% of Alabamians lived below the federal poverty level. The median household income in Alabama was $54,943 at the time

“WIC is statutorily available for people who are 185%t below the federal poverty level. We need to make WIC available to as many women and young children as possible,” said Gundlach. “With young children, one of the things we are seeing nationally is that by the time children are about four years old, only about one third of the children eligible for WIC are receiving food through the program.”

This change in eligibility means that more families will have help purchasing food their families need.

“Increased cash value benefits are available to purchase fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, with each child receiving $25 a month, pregnant and postpartum women receiving $44 a month, and breastfeeding women receiving $49 a month.” Hatchett stated.

The ADPH offers the table below to determine qualification for assistant:

            Family Size*              Annual Income                Weekly Income

                      2                             $36,482                            $702

                      3                             $45,991                            $885

                      4                             $55,500                            $1,068

                      5                             $65,009                            $1,251

                      6                             $74,518                            $1,434

*Each unborn infant counts as one in the family size.

*For additional family sizes, please visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/wic/assets/income.guidelines.pdf                                       

Hatchett added that WIC participants must have both a limited income and a nutritional need. Families receiving Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) already meet the income qualifications for WIC. 

Even families who do not qualify for these programs may be eligible for WIC because of WIC’s higher income limits.  “WIC works with families to meet nutrition goals and provides healthy foods to support optimal growth and development. Nutritious foods help pregnant women have healthy babies and help children grow to become healthy adults,” said Hatchett. “Alabama’s WIC Program understands the struggles many families face to establish healthy eating habits, and WIC is here to help women, infants, and children in Alabama.”  

For more information, please go tohttps://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/wic/or call the statewide toll-free line at 1-888-942-4673 (1-888-WIC-HOPE).