Public Benefits: Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA) LSC Funded


What is WIC?

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) helps pregnant women, new mothers, and children under the age of 5 (including foster children and children raised by their fathers) eat well and stay healthy.

WIC provides nutrition education, referrals to health and other social services, and checks to purchase healthy foods at no charge.

Do I qualify for WIC?

Women and their families must meet income guidelines (185 percent of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines or less), be residents of Montana, be in a category served (for example pregnant women), and be individually determined to be at a "nutrition risk" (as defined below) by a health professional.

A person who participates or has family members who participate in certain other benefit programs in Montana, such as the Food Stamp Program, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), may automatically meet the income eligibility requirement. The applicant may still need to meet other eligibility requirements.

What is a "Nutrition Risk"?

Medically-based risks include anemia, underweight, maternal age, history of pregnancy complications, or poor pregnancy outcomes.

Diet-based risks include an inadequate diet.

How will I access my WIC program food benefits?

A WIC participant receives checks to purchase specific foods each month. These foods are designed to provide specific nutrients and supplement the participant's diet. Montana WIC also provides certain categories in designated areas a limited number of WIC Farmers' Market Nutrition Program checks that can be used at farmers markets for fruits and vegetables.

WIC may also cover therapeutic formulas, should an infant, child or woman require them. For WIC to consider providing the therapeutic formula, a physician must prescribe it for a specific medical condition.

What is the WIC infant formula rebate system?

Mothers participating in WIC are encouraged to breastfeed their infants. If a mother chooses not to breastfeed, Montana WIC provides mothers with infant formula to feed their infants.

How many people does WIC serve?

  • In the United States, over 7.5 million get WIC benefits, including many mothers who work.
  • Approximately 3.75 million children, 1.9 million infants, and 1.8 million women are receiving WIC benefits.

What are some other WIC benefits beyond food?

  • Information about nutrition and health to help you and your family eat well and stay healthy.
  • Support and information about breastfeeding your baby.
  • Help in finding health care and other community services.
  • Extra foods for breastfeeding mothers to provide them with additional nutritious foods while breastfeeding.
  • Education sessions that discuss issues such as nutrition, breastfeeding, food shopping/menu planning and preventing tooth decay in young children. WIC helps families learn how to make healthy lifelong nutrition and lifestyle choices.

Where do I apply?

In Helena:
1930 9th Ave.
(406) 457-8912

To find a different Montana WIC location, contact:
Chris Fogelman
(406) 444-4747
(800) 433-4298

What if I was denied because my local WIC office has a wait list?

WIC is not an entitlement program. You may still be denied benefits even if you seem to meet all requirements for eligibility, but Montana WIC is out of food money. If you are a "priority 1" applicant, you will be able to apply at the first appointment slot.

If you are eligible but are denied WIC benefits because your WIC office is oversubscribed, call the State WIC office and find any other locations that might be able to serve you.

Who gets first priority to WIC benefits?

Once a maximum caseload has been reached at the local office, eligibility is determined by a series of factors including (but not limited to):

  • Pregnant/breastfeeding women with a medical problem/nutrition risk.
  • Infants with a medical problem/nutrition risk.
  • Children with a medical problem/nutrition risk.

Can I request a fair hearing?

If you do not agree with the fact that your WIC benefits have been cut or suspended, you can request a fair hearing. You must request a fair hearing within 90 days of the decision.

If you have any legal questions, please refer to Montana Legal Services Association's pamphlet on "Public Benefit Fair Hearings: How to Defend Your Rights."

Revised 1/05

Call the MLSA HelpLine for legal assistance:
(800) 666-6899

Montana Legal Services Association
616 Helena Avenue, Suite 100
Helena, Montana 59601
(406) 442-9830
(800) 666-6124

Last Review and Update: Jan 03, 2006

Contacting the LiveHelp service...