In 2024, the State of North Carolina is celebrating 50 years of a well-known food benefits program titled “Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children” – better known as WIC.

The program has grown tremendously over the years, and now Guilford County, to take just one example of that growth, operates a WIC van that takes services to clients rather than making them come down to a county building.

The North Carolina WIC program helps ensure that mothers, babies and young children across the state have the food and other support they need so the youngsters have a strong and healthy start in life.

Over the decades, multiple studies have found that WIC programs improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, resulting in healthier babies.

Also, children who receive WIC support have demonstrated better intellectual development later in life than those who didn’t benefit from the program.

According to state officials, the current WIC program helps out over 230,000 women, infants and children in North Carolina. Each year, the program provides access to supplemental healthy foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding training – and it also offers support and referrals for health care and social services.

The WIC program brings roughly $200 million in federal funds into North Carolina and allows families to buy approved foods and other items at over 1,500 stores and other food retailers.

Director of the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child and Family Well-Being Yvonne Copeland stated in a Monday, June 10 press release celebrating the 50-year milestone of the program, that it is critical to supporting women, kids and infants in the state.

“WIC supports half of all infants born in North Carolina by providing access to the best resources and services for mothers and children,” she said. “This year, we recognize an incredible milestone in the evolution of maternal and child health care with the 50th anniversary of the WIC program. Since the opening of the first clinic in 1974, WIC has been an unwavering beacon of support committed to improving public health outcomes for women, infants and children.”

In 1974, the federal WIC program provided supplemental food to 88,000 people across the entire country.  Back then, their average food benefit was $15.88 per month.

Since then, like many government programs, it has grown exponentially: In 2023, WIC provided food for 6.6 million women, infants, and children nationally whose average food benefit was $56 a month.

WIC food benefits provide a wide range of foods for clients – including fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, cereals and dairy products.

The monetary value of these benefits can reach up to $240 a month.

WIC is available to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, and infants and children up to the age of 5.

Foster families with qualifying individuals may also be eligible to receive WIC benefits.

To qualify, NC WIC participants have to live in the state and have a family income of less than 185 percent of the US Poverty Income Guidelines.  That’s roughly less than $57,720 in annual income for a family of four.

Those who are receiving Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – also known as Work First – or NC Food and Nutrition Services, automatically meet the WIC Income Guidelines.