Proud Welfare Mom: WIC vs SNAP

:::UPDATE – This post was written in 2013. Much has changed in our lives since it was written, but I remain proud of my family, and we do remain both dependent on and grateful for government services provided through the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Please read other Proud Welfare Mom posts. If you comment here only to vent rage or hate, I will delete your comment. If you have something to say that might help someone or further discussion, I will try to reply. The comments I receive on this page make me question humanities, some days. Be human beings. :::

I’m putting on my Proud Welfare Mom hat today to explain the difference between WIC and SNAP (food stamps). It’s really important, and really confusing. I’ll do my best.

**Disclaimer: I am not trained to explain any of this to anyone, or to help anyone apply. My experience is limited to the Connecticut Department of Social Services only.**

First, it’s important to understand that WIC is a special kind of “welfare” program. The acronym is for Women Infants and Children. It’s the most basic of safety nets, in that the purpose of WIC is to make sure that pregnant women, infants and very young children receive very basic nutrition (milk, eggs, bread) for low-income families. You can qualify for WIC if your income is below a certain amount. Other WIC requirements include: living in the area of the office you’re applying through, and a few other things. The most important thing about WIC, though, and what makes it such a basic safety net, is that you don’t need to prove that you’re a US citizen or a documented immigrant to qualify, meaning that the US government realizes that the most very basic nutrition for pregnant women and children under five-years-old is good for society at large. Or, if you are cynical, it is cheaper to provide basic nutritional assistance for the most vulnerable population than to provide health care after they show up in our emergency rooms.

Unlike WIC, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as and still informally referred to as “food stamps,” requires a rather lengthy application and many more eligibility requirements. It is not just for the basics, but for groceries in general. Very unlike WIC, you can’t even receive SNAP benefits unless you’re a US citizen or have lived here legally for at least five years. That’s probably because SNAP is much more expensive–a family of three, like mine, can receive about $500 per month. That’s not what we get, but you can imagine that it adds up.

One of the stranger questions asked on the "adjustment" form I'm currently filling out to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

One of the stranger questions asked on the “adjustment” form I’m currently filling out to continue receiving SNAP benefits.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention a dollar amount for WIC. This is the second important difference between WIC and SNAP; WIC benefits include a book of “checks,” or vouchers, for specific foods, to be used at specific stores, while SNAP provides money for food in general, at a variety of stores and even, in some states, restaurants. WIC checks are so complicated to use that my husband and I have never managed, between the two of us, to make it through the checkout process at a grocery store without encountering some sort of problem. Right brand, wrong type of bread–”Yes, you did get the 12 grain bread last time, but that was in December. Now, it’s a new year and we only allow the Whole Wheat from that brand.” If we don’t get everything that’s been printed on the check, or if the store is simply out of stock, then we are out of luck. Nothing organic is allowed. Keep in mind that we are over-educated, native English speakers, and we have a really hard time navigating this process. When my therapist asked me why WIC made me feel angry, infantalized and humiliated, I showed her the booklet explaining which foods we are and are not allowed to get. She made several mistakes trying to understand the first two pages. 

Why is WIC so complicated? Because it involves negotiations between the states and food manufacturers. The state asks companies to submit bids and accepts whatever it can get for the least amount of money. Big companies can usually afford to provide the deepest discounts. WIC makes a list of those foods and prints it on our vouchers. The stores must then write down the dollar amount, send in the vouchers and wait to receive compensation. For that reason, if we wanted formula from WIC, we could only get Enfamil. If we chose to use the vouchers they give us for jars of baby food, we could only get certain “flavors” of the Beech Nut brand. Babies who are breastfed can get the jars of meat, but babies who are formula fed can only get the fruit and veggie jars. Why? Because they only allow iron-enriched formula. Breastfed babies need the iron in the jars of meat, presumably. Just for the record, our local WIC office encourages breastfeeding with warmth and enthusiasm, and I love them for it. Every three months, we go to the office and sit down with the booklet and a nutritional counsellor and choose from our options. We are apparently unusual for choosing the tofu option. Everyone receives vouchers for gallons of milk. I don’t know how anyone goes through that much milk. It’s supposed to be on of my main sources of protein, unfortunately.

We're enjoying organic berries this summer, thanks to SNAP.

We’re enjoying organic berries this summer, thanks to SNAP.

WIC is stuck in the distant past in its nutritional suggestions (processed cereals, juice from concentrate, skim milk for protein, etc.) because highly processed foods are cheaper. Organic is more expensive. I wasn’t really that angry about “Big Agra” and corporate food until I saw for myself the way low-income families get stuck with the worst options, simply because they are the cheapest to manufacture and contain foods heavily subsidized in farming (corn and corn products are in absolutely everything). Frosted Flakes (generic, processed corn, sugary) are allowed, while steel-cut oatmeal (high in protein, hardly processed) is not. We can only get the most heavily processed hot cereals, too.

SNAP allows us complete freedom in what we buy; it simply limits the amount of money we are allowed to spend. We fill out mountains of paperwork, and the Department of Social Services determines how much money we should receive. They put it on an “EBT” card that we swipe and use with a PIN, just as through it were attached to our bank account. It took me months of waiting and hours on the phone to get that amount adjusted after Walt was born, because someone, somewhere, had failed to type in his social security number. Now that we have received the money we ought to have been allotted in the first place, I can feed my child organic products. Because we prefer to eat unprocessed foods in general and because, in the store itself (as opposed to in the board room, where WIC is negotiated), vegetables are cheaper than anything else, we eat well on that amount.

In Connecticut, the only restriction we’ve encountered on what we buy using our SNAP money is on prepared foods. Oddly, we can’t use it for the salad bar at Whole Foods, but we can use it for the sushi they package and sell in a cooler right in front of the counter where they prepare the sushi. I don’t really understand the restrictions, but I love SNAP. Whatever it doesn’t cover just comes up as a balance. It’s easy for everyone, as though you were splitting the bill onto two cards.

You can use your SNAP card at any grocery store, whereas WIC vouchers may only be used at stores who have agreed to participate. Cashiers don’t need to understand any rules or call over managers for any signatures when we use our SNAP card, but WIC vouchers require both. We can always use our SNAP card at farmers’ markets and even receive an extra $10 to spend on fruits and vegetables when we “spend” at least $10, there. WIC has just started giving out checks for the market, but they are few and far between.

I’ve surpassed 1200 words and have also reached the limits of my patience. I’m happy to answer any questions, though! Ask away!

One more thing: I am proud of myself for navigating all the paperwork and time on the phone required to get my family the help we need. I am still struggling with feelings of shame in actually using that help. I can’t handle WIC checks at all. Nathan does it all, so that I don’t have anxiety attacks in the aisles of Wal-Mart (a company I hate, but the only place where the cashiers know what they’re doing regarding WIC). My emotional response is complicated. Money is hard for everyone to deal with, even people who have lots, in my experience. I’m hoping that talking about it will help me and anyone else who happens across this space.

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Comments

  1. Leah Marie Pickren Silverman says

    I’m politically (and especially fiscally) nearly a socialist. I’m a proud champion of entitlement programs, and advocate loudly for more of them. I also proudly admit that I have used both WIC and SNAP for my family, and am still currently using WIC (although we don’t collect everything on those checks, because it is just stuff we wouldn’t eat… you’re so right about the poor receiving the crappiest food). Even still, I experience shame when using those WIC checks. I get embarrassed if I see someone I know at the store while I’m using them. And that reaction makes me more vehement in defense of these programs, because no one should have to feel that way about getting the help they need. What is shameful, is that a distaste for these programs is so ingrained in our society, that even those of who know better still feel the shame when doing what we need to do for our families.

    Rock on, proud welfare mom. Proud is what we should feel.

    • says

      Well, at least we feel shame together, and we know that we shouldn’t have to! I share your views and well, let’s just say I had a lot in common, politically, with the Norwegian family I used to babysit for. Thanks, as always, Leah!

    • Mary Beth says

      Of course you’re a socialist. You like redistribution of money, because you’re a taker.
      Anyone who is “proud” to be on government assistance should be horsewhipped. It’s great to have programs to help the truly needy, but it’s something to be grateful for, not proud of. And anyone taking assistance should be working overtime to get off the dole, and contribute to society instead of taking from it.

      • says

        As human being who would consider whipping another human being, literally or metaphorically, ought to be ashamed of yourself. I work overtime taking care of my son, because child care isn’t FREE. My husband works overtime finishing his dissertation and hunting for a job, at which point we will move up about four income brackets and become “givers.”

        There are many ways to contribute to society. You should consider this idea: kindness. Would you rather live among cruel people or kind people?

        • chris says

          Its not kind that i have to pay 4 thousand dollars in taxes monthly because society does not want to work 2 jobs..I work hard and the takers just take and take..

          • Jax says

            Honestly that is your choice. Also, we as a society should fight for better pay so that we should not have to choose to work 2 to 3 jobs and/or overtime or have to use government programs to make ends meet. If the minimum wage went up perhaps there would be less of a need for these programs.

        • Keegan says

          Hi so I cashier at a supermarket and there are lots of people that are on these programs. WIC is more difficult to ring up but I feel that it is a better program, because it gives people what they need. Food stamps I usually have a problem with when I see people complain about everything when they buy chips and pop then pay with the money the government takes out of my check every week.

          • says

            I’d like to point out two things: the money that comes out of your check every week is not directly proportionate to the money that the federal government budgets for food stamps. The more important point, however, is that what someone buys with his or her EBT card at any given moment is not indicative of an overall diet. Our kids have birthdays, too, and we watch football. Why shouldn’t we eat potato chips and drink soda? It’s not ok to assume a poor diet based on one purchase, just as it is not ok to assume that someone who seems overweight is lazy, doesn’t exercise, eats poorly. You can’t know a life story just from a supermarket purchase. WIC seems to provide what people need, but in fact fails to provide much in the way of vegetables. Bread and milk are no longer considered the staples of a truly healthy diet, and the ingredients in the brands of, for example, bread and cereal, are known to be factors in the current obesity epidemic. High fructose corn syrup is in the less expensive bread WIC offers, even if it says “whole wheat” on the package, and this is just one ingredient linked to our country’s declining health. WIC sends families home with gallon after gallon of milk, and much of it goes to waste. The juice WIC provides is extremely high in sugar, and low in nutritional value. I can use my food stamps to buy healthier food, and using the EBT card has never caused an embarrassing hold up in the checkout line. I would like to gently suggest that you check your assumptions about your customers, and please remember that you are seeing a very small snippet of a life.

          • Sarah says

            @Keegan: if you are a cashier at a grocery store, you most likely don’t pay any taxes at all. You most likely get it all back in your tax refund, plus extra from the earned income tax credit, and any other tax credits, such as dependent credits.

            So you are a taker. You use roads, police protection, public parks, etc, all without contributing tax revenue.

            Want to be a “giver” and not a “taker”? Refuse your tax refunds, and tax credits. Then you will be a tax payer. Right now, you are most likely making either minimum wage, or not much above it, and therefore NOT actually contributing.

            So maybe you should stop judging people on SNAP.

      • Melissa Denny says

        Hi all I wish I could get on Snap :) but am happy with Wic :) have noticed a few things with Wic .. some stores will let you price match fruits and veggies .. like Wal-Mart I live in Las Vegas and I can get online ads from groceries wayy further in the city and take those ads to walmart and get three times as much and I can use Wic like I got 6lbs of bananas here for 2.00 and i was able to use my Wic card too which was great ! and I got like 9 lbs of apples for 3.00 that way too :) and I am guessing if they will let you do this with Wic they will for SNAP too so that may help some of you guys family a little more.. I know how hard it is to get by with how expensive everything can be .. and with SNAP you can buy meat sooo definately check your stores see who does price matching and who doesnt and if they will do it in combination with EBT cards gather your ads every week and make out a great list :) I down load ads onto my phone so I can show the cashier the ad when I hit the check out :) it helps! anyway :) I hope this info helps you guys :)

      • Jax says

        No human being should ever be horse whipped. You should be ashamed for suggesting such a thing. Personally speaking I worked overtime every year for the last 15 years. I paid my taxes which go to fund such government programs.Due to unforseen circumstances and this horrible economy I am now
        proudly using those programs I so proudly worked for and paid into.

  2. frustrated momma says

    We only qualified for Wic because my twins were in the nicu. We applied for snap and were denied because we make just over the limit. We could desperately use snap as my kids need a gluten free diet out of necessity and it is extremely expensive! My husband is disabled in a wheelchair and works full time. I am his full time Care giver which doesn’t leave time for either one of us to seek extra employment. It is so very frustrating when you are doing ok and your pay is cut by $1.50 an hour because dpw funding was cut. I receive pay to care for him. Without the setup we have I would have to seek outside employment and then try and afford daycare for the twins and my husband wouldn’t hve transportation back and forth to work. So for now we struggle through day to day and we gave up wic because it didn’t provide for the nutritional needs of my family.

    • says

      Oh, my heart aches for you! I was once uninsured and taking two medications that did not yet have generics, none of which factored in to my application for state assistance; I made $100 too much–per YEAR. I survived because my mother and stepfather paid for my rent. Without my family, I would have had to choose between meds and rent. And I don’t function without meds, so good-bye income!

      This part of your story is baffling to me: our society is failing you, in part because WIC hasn’t caught on that some people can’t tolerate gluten. What an easy fix! They only recently started offering soy milk and tofu in our state. What a mess.

      On our most recent DSS paperwork, new in 2013, they ask about medical expenses, costs for day care, care for elderly family members *and* care for disabled family members. I’m not “unemployed” and they don’t get on my case to get a job, because they see that I spend $0 on day care and we have an infant. I am guessing that you don’t live in Connecticut, but the optimist in me is hoping that there might be a new application in your state, too.

      If you have to keep struggling day-to-day, then all I can say is keep up the brave, hard work. I very much hope that the society to which much of your hard-earned money goes in taxes will catch up to your needs before too long.

  3. NM says

    Thank you for this article! It made me realize how lucky I am that in Chicago we have WIC ‘grocery stores’. They are small stores staffed with WIC employees that only stock what is approved in the vouchers. They have shelves of cereal and baby food and freezers with frozen veggies as well as fresh gallons of milk, eggs and cheese and a small fresh veggie section. I’ve never had to deal with the hassle of trying to figure out what I was able to get. I just walked to the shelf and grabbed it. I’ve used WIC since I became pregnant and found it a big help. There were times during my pregnancy we were so broke that I stretched out the pound of dried beans they gave me into meals for the week. I am not ashamed of that. It helped me nurture my baby and while I have become much more educated on organics and whole foods now that he is two I still appreciate the help. I donated the jarred baby foods and cereals to a woman’s shelter and now just use about half the tickets. We don’t eat processed cereals, I make my own peanut butter and juices. But I appreciate that lm able to get some fresh, though not organic veggies to supplement my CSA and organic purchases with my SNAP card. And while I would love to buy organic, local eggs and cheese it isn’t always possible so I get that there too. We grab the occasional gallon of milk since hubs drinks it and he would be buying it anyway. But LO and I don’t drink cows milk. I am shocked at the amount of whole milk and cereal they were offering me, he had just turned 1 and he was supposed to guzzle a gallon of milk a week?? I only breastfed so I don’t know about the formula but I hear from other moms that it was never enough and they still had to supplement with their own money and buy more. I appreciate that in a way, since maybe it will push more moms to nurse. My WIC office is encouraging of nursing but didn’t push one or the other at me. THeir eyes widen when I walk in with my toddler and proudly announce we are still nursing. Makes me sad to think that they don’t see many of my ‘kind’. I agree the nutritional guidelines are quite antiquated and I find having to justify why we don’t need so much milk and cereal. They give me the tickets anyway and say I can donate the food or just not get it. So at least you aren’t forced to eat the food. But yes, if you aren’t very educated or are very low income or don’t have SNAP how can you have access to the more wholesome food? I wish WIC would get with the times. It probably wouldn’t cost much to work with local farmers and provide more produce instead of three giant boxes of corn cereal a month to our kids! If they took the time to educate these mothers about whole nutrition and organics we can really start to take some of this power back from Big Agr. I’m still fairly low income now and we do a CSA most of the year (farm lets me use SNAP for some of it thankfully), I garden and I shop for as much organic as possible. So I don’t believe in the excuse of ‘i can’t afford it’. I understand that it helps to live in a big city, and I am very grateful that just in my neighborhood alone I have several local coop stores and even an amish farm store where the owner brings back fresh inventory weekly -from duck eggs to raw butter to free range chicken.

    • says

      A WIC grocery store sounds amazing! My head reels at the thought: they must have so much more negotiating power with companies about what they can get for you.

      I love our WIC office for simply making it really, really easy for breastfeeding moms to get really, really good advice. I talked with the lactation consultant and still have her card in my wallet. She’s got the highest level of certification, and she’s free through the WIC office. There are posters, but there’s no shaming about formula.

      As for produce, it amazes me how the place you live can make such a huge difference in how simple or complicated it is to get local produce. It’s cheaper and easier for my friend in Lexington, KY than it is for us. There appears to be more interest, there. Both college towns in farming regions. I’d never have guessed that the University of Kentucky was more crunchy than Yale, but here we are. The farmer’s market itself is the only low-income friendly way to go about it, and that’s because the larger organization that puts the market together gives us tokens for swiping our EBT card. The farmers themselves only take cash. I’ll have to look into it, more, though. I was so overwhelmed with just getting started and wading through all the paperwork, and then fighting them, going “We should be getting more than this!” for six months.

      • says

        PS I have to use SNAP, not WIC, for peanut butter, despite the fact that WIC would be happy to give us gallons of the stuff, because I cannot bring myself to eat the crap with hydrogenated oils and sugar added. I literally feed it only to the DOG as a treat.

        • Jennie says

          We buy the Natural versions of the peanut butter, but they seem to be taking it off WIC weekly so the choices are less and less….but what I cannot use, I get anyway and make Bird Suet with! My kids love to see the birds happily eating our homemade bird food….so we all win.

        • chris says

          You shouldnt waste it.Hard working citizens have to pay for it.I cant stand complainers.your getting free food,stop complaining.I have to pay for your food.

          • Nic says

            Chris. Shes not wasting the food the birds are eating it. Birds have to eat too. Duh. And 14% of your precious tax dollars gets divided to programs like food stamps, wic and such. 20% to defense.20% to insurance programs. 20% to social security. 12 % goes to safety net programs such as earned income credits and such and the rest is unaccounted for. So maybe u should be pissed about the missing 14%? Probably a lot of politicians are pocketing the cash so who cares what this lady does with her peanut butter. Worry about shit that matters and not what this lady does with her peanut butter.

  4. says

    I didn’t even sign up for WIC during or after my second pregnancy a little over four years ago, even though we sorely needed it, because I couldn’t deal with all the stress that goes into it. First you have to find every thing you need that conforms to their strict and ever-changing list of items. Then you have to deal with rude cashiers who refuse to acknowledge that you’re not a complete idiot just because you picked the wrong size cereal, or chose the wrong brand juice, even though the voucher specifically says, “Brand X or anything of equal or lesser value.” Last, there’s the people in line behind you who make horribly rude comments about how long it’s taking, and “Oh… She’s got /WIC/. No WONDER it’s taking so long.”

    I did end up getting SNAP benefits after having my second daughter, and although I’ve run into a few issues with it in dealing with paperwork (it’s my local office, really), I’ve really enjoyed the benefits of being able to choose my own diet.

    Thank you for taking the time to explain the difference between the two types of benefits. It’s unfortunate, the stigma that is attached to both, because they really are helpful.

    • says

      Oh, the things that I imagine people thinking about me! Our theory is that going to this one particular Wal Mart (and only that one) works faster and more smoothly because there are more customers *and* more cashiers who have used it. Plus, more lines open for people to just go to a shorter wait.

      I HEAR you about the SNAP paperwork! My son was six months old before the local office even put me on the phone with an actual social worker. We’re not allowed to go in person without an appointment. Which you cannot make unless you talk to a social worker. And all because someone just didn’t type in the baby’s SSN. The day they backdated our account with all the money we *should* have been getting, I went to Whole Foods and bought All The Things I wanted.

  5. Lettuce5 says

    I haven’t received WIC for 11 years but it was hard to use then! I work as a BFPC and forgot how complicated WIC is until I read this. Trust me, WalMart gives me complete anxiety and I try to avoid that store as much as possible. I am not sure what it is about that store but I have talked to many other people who get Wal Mart anxiety as well.

    • says

      I can’t go in one. My husband finds that one particular Wal Mart is the easiest place to use WIC, but he doesn’t share my anxiety. I can’t tell if it’s the crowds, the disorganization, the lighting or all of the above, but the place makes me itch.

      I hear that in other states (Texas) they have cards for WIC. I find it hilarious that in CT they are still using the same dot matrix printer on our checks that my dad used for his college papers in 1986.

      • Lettuce5 says

        I know WIC (USDA) is planning on making the whole system electronic to save money and easier to use. I keep up to date with the politics, policy and fiscal part of WIC as it impacts my job greatly. I follow it on Facebook if interested. https://www.facebook.com/nationalwicassociation?fref=ts

        Also, I can add that milk provided is way too much and I wish more fruits/veggies are available to promote better health. I think there is a lot wrong with the WIC program and think the stakeholders of the program have too much input and the politicians do not know enough about the choices they are making for the American public.

        • says

          Yes, exactly this–the people deciding what’s going to be available are too far away. I bet the women working in our local office could tell them exactly what should be on the list & what no one needs.

  6. simonesnake says

    My understanding of WIC has been that it is federally funded but run by the states without many requirements on how to run it, which has always bothered me since I live in North Carolina, which has a terrible record for how they choose to set up programs on their own. My biggest peeve of late has been that I was recently told that due to having a home birth I will not be able to use receive any infant WIC until I can provide a birth certificate and Medicaid card – that unlike a hospital birth, where they have a system set up to accept the signature of an OB, midwife, or pediatrician as proof of birth, they just don’t have a precedent to accept the exact same thing when the birth didn’t happen at the hospital.
    I has also struck me as unfair in a luck of the draw sort of way that how much you get for fruits and veggies seems to vary widely. In NC I get $10 per month for fruits and veggies (no organic allowed, and they only “WIC tag” frozen items, so you never know if fresh produce will go through till you get to the register). However, I’ve chatted with many others on mommy boards who are currently receiving $100 a month in produce vouchers which are good for organic and farmers market items.
    Being disabled and on SSI and Medicaid I find it reassuring that I could move anywhere in the country and still receive basically the same level of care due to federal oversight – so how is it fair that a tiny baby could receive such widely varying assistance just because they had the good (or bad) fortune to be born in a particular sate or location.

    • says

      You are right about the states setting some rules within a basic federal structure, and the links I provide above go to the US Dept of Agriculture, which oversees WIC and SNAP. As for the home birth, do you need formula from WIC? Unless you need formula, you should be able to wait until you see your pediatrician. A doctor can verify the birth date, weight and length of the baby at the first visit, and that’s all they should need to change your checks. It won’t be a big change, though, if you’re breastfeeding.

      We also get $10 per month for fruits and veggies, but there aren’t restrictions like in NC–that sounds awful! As for the other moms, I have never heard of anything like $100/month. There are farmers market vouchers that are new, but our office hasn’t gotten ours yet. I can’t remember how much they are for, but there aren’t restrictions on those, either, in CT.

      I agree that it’s ridiculous that so much depends on which state, even which neighborhood, we live in. It’s not fair, but it’s the American system.

      • Jennie says

        In Tennessee each child gets $6 a month in veggies/fruits. That is all. I as a pregnant woman get $10. Its sad to think we can get boxes and boxes of crappy cereal but barely buy a bag of apples. So much waste, with the milk too because we would never drink all that milk, plus we prefer Almond Milk/Organic Soy. But WIC wont approve anything but low fat dairy unless a doctor in TN says that my kids or I cannot have any dairy at all. And they dont let you choose it due to the expense….but I don’t know anyone who drinks at minimum a gallon of milk a week, per person. So my hubs drinks the milk and I use it in some recipes, the rest I either don’t get at all or I call a sister to pick up my extras. But WIC is pretty awful honestly. In rural-ish Tennessee – poor people really have the worst possible food options and are treated really poorly. At mt local grocery, I get the eye roll with the WIC vouchers and some cashiers seem almost angry about it and some stores only let managers ring your WIC order. No farmers market option here, with WIC or SNAP which is a bummer because I am a proud local veggie lover.

          • Jamie says

            Chris, maybe you should get another hobby besides trolling message boards where needy people are discussing how to survive.

            I’ve been receiving SNAP benefits for the past few months for the first time in my life because I’ve been unemployed for 2 years through no fault of my own. Each month I hope that I’m able to get full-time employment and be able to afford my own food without the help of food stamps.

            And, yes, I actually do work 2 jobs.

          • Jason says

            Yes, Chris, people should just go find that magic Tree Of Decent-Paying Jobs and harvest a couple like you did, you rugged Bootstrap-American you.

  7. Katrina says

    As a fellow person from CT whose husband works at the grocery store, the reason you can’t get foods from the salad bar with SNAP or anything hot is because those foods are taxable. Once it is packaged it no longer is taxable though. So don’t go to the seafood department and ask for a steamed lobster and expect to get it with SNAP. You can get the live lobster though, assuming you would have enough food stamps to cover the $12.99. Honestly, I can see why people get so aggravated by people who get food stamps though. Those who fall just over the poverty guidelines and do not qualify for SNAP also cannot purchase organic foods and lobster because it ends up being a choice between eating and paying their mortgage.

    • says

      You’re kidding me with this, right? I wasn’t COMPLAINING that I can’t raid the Whole Foods hot bar, I was just trying to illustrate that the card doesn’t come with an explanation like “once it’s packaged it is no longer taxable.”

      I think there’s a huge gap, and I’ve been in that gap: choosing between meds and paying rent. It’s terrible. I still bought organic apples. I just ate fewer.

      But please, come here, to my space, and spend your time typing out judgements of me and my family. By all means, assume that we’re using your tax dollars to gorge ourselves on (gasp) organic fruits and vegetables and lobster. Because I write a blog, I must be inviting you to hold us up as an example of whatever is making you mad, today. Seems like a great use of your time, to me.

      • Katrina says

        Wow, I wasn’t trying to bash you. I was simply explaining why you can’t get the prepared food items because you said you didn’t understand why. Geez take a chill pill why don’t you. Sorry if you found my comment judgmental. I have used both WIC and food stamps myself. I’m simply trying to play devils advocate about why people might be bitter about purchases that are made. Someone is paying for this stuff is all. I’m not saying you’re bad or you’re abusing the system. You would have to budget your food stamps very carefully to buy completely organic and feed your family on the amount you are given every month. People do abuse the system though, I wasn’t saying that’s what YOU were doing!

        • says

          It’s really hard to tell tone from comments, and using a general “people” often means that a passive-agressive insult is coming. The number of people who abuse the system is so very tiny.

          I write about my experience, because I’m not qualified to write about the system as a whole. But the details are meant to represent the greater problem: people who need help with the basics are shamed and doubted and jump through a million hoops. Even if you did mean to just point out something about buying organic, I will not “chill” about something this basic and important.

      • chris says

        Get a Job and stop taking from the hard working citizens. Better yet get 2 jobs like everyone else.Tired of society sucking on the governments titt. Stop taking,stop.Get off the welfare system. Your your brain and be usful to society.

        • Lauren says

          “everyone else”
          You’re kidding right? Or do you think “about 5%” (the number of Americans who work 2 or more jobs) is enough to pretty much constitute “everyone”?
          hint: It’s not.

  8. Alli D. says

    I’m glad that there is help for people, and I think that food is a basic right. I was a cashier at a low-income convenience store: some of my best lessons were taught by my customers, and I still think fondly of many! I’ve seen the full range from both sides of the counter and the EBT card.

    Keep centered and keep smiling: those that are impatient may not get it now, and for my part I sincerely hope they never HAVE TO… but I am certain that the majority of people believe that supporting our fellow citizens is the right thing. Sometimes they just need a nudge;)

    Thanks for the post, thanks for being very clear about the bureaucratic headaches.

    • says

      It’s a good point: never ok to take it out on the cashier! “Keep centered and keep smiling” is great advice, because it does no one any good at all to get upset in the store. It’s my policy in general to be nice to low-wage earners, but I do try extra hard to be nice to people who have to deal with the headache from the other side. I hope I didn’t come across as too hard on the store employes.

    • chris says

      No.if you have two arms and two legs and not intellectually challenged, then you need to work and stop taking from the hard working citizens.Sometimes the takers just need a nuge off welfare.

  9. Brian Castrucci says

    It always saddens me when people discuss and criticize the WIC program often with incorrect information. The program is not perfect, but, as a former state WIC director and more than six years of experience with the program, I just wanted to provide education and perspective. No judgment is meant here. I have spent my entire career, until recently, working in governmental public health – maternal and child health to be exact. I dedicated my life to helping my fellow citizens, so please read no judgment here; only information and perspective.

    Before, I go into too great of detail let me start with a clarifying point – WIC stands for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children; SNAP for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Two key words common in each program is SUPPLEMENTAL and NUTRITION. I point out these two words because neither program is meant to provide the sole nutrition for a family or person or infant or combination thereof and there is a supposition of nutrition. With that said, here are some other points I would like you to consider when assessing the program. Let me also offer a call to action – this is our program. It is the people’s program. Much of what the states must do is dictated by USDA, but where there is flexibility (see point 5 below), we should have it. Engage your state WIC director; see if there is a WIC advisory committee. Get involved. I know, we all have limited time available, but if it is important to you, there are ways to get involved. Many of us who work or have worked in my case in government believe it to be a noble professional and a privilege to serve our fellow citizens. You want a better program, a more thoughtful program that balances the needs of our citizens with the purpose of the program.

    1) Complexity. WIC is complex. Not just for the participants, but for the vendors as well. No one likes the long, complicated process it takes to process WIC at checkout. WIC vendors can use signage, stickers, etc. to try to make purchase using WIC as easy as possible, but that is the choice of the vendor. WIC is further complicated because of between state nuances that are exceptionally troubling for vendors working across states – Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, etc. Everyone would like WIC to be less complex; easier like SNAP. WIC is not easy because the food package is regimented. The WIC food package changed in 2009 to conform with recommendations from an Institute of Medicine (IOM) panel. There is greater variety. Increased focus on fruits and vegetables. Greater incentives for breastfeeding. Nevertheless, still very complex. However, while SNAP provides increased choice, it also provides an estimated $2B to $4B annual subsidy to the soda industry (http://www.cnbc.com/id/40452370, http://www.thenewstribune.com/2013/05/28/2614792/taxpayers-shouldnt-subsidize-sugary.html). That’s’ the tradeoff. Complexity with nutrition based on scientific guidance or free choice that benefits those who are responsible, at least in part, for one of the worst health crises in American history – obesity. For those who would like to buy organics on SNAP, I agree with you. More fruits and vegetables, I agree with you. High dollar, nutritious food, I agree with you. Soda, snack cakes, Ramen noodles, I do not agree with you there. Remember, SNAP, like WIC, is supplemental. The supplement, in my opinion, should be used for those foods that provide the greatest nutrition.

    2) Vouchers are going away. There is a USDA mandate that all states have EBT (electronic benefit transfer) by 2020. This will eliminate the checks, but not the complexity.

    3) Least expensive options. In the article, the complexity of WIC is blamed on “negotiations between the states and manufactures.” This is not true in any of the states with which I am familiar. There is a price survey that the vendors (supermarkets) complete where WIC is seeking to reimburse only the lowest priced foods. This is important because WIC is NOT AN ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM, while SNAP is AN ENTITLEMENT PROGRAM. This is an important distinction because not everyone eligible for WIC can receive it. If funding is not available, WIC can institute waiting lists or close enrollment. SNAP must serve all eligible. So, there is an incentive for WIC to keep costs low. On the vendor side, no one ever knows the maximum allowable amount on a voucher. This is determined by the state. Should a vendor exceed the maximum allowable – again, which they do not know – they risk their voucher being rejected which then often nets them a loss on the merchandise, but a returned check fee. So, this is the “incentive” to the vendor to limit the foods its makes available to WIC participants.

    4) Contract formula rebate. Only one formula can be purchased by WIC participants in each state. Why? Because each state gets a rebate from the formula manufacture that gets the exclusive contract in the state. This is done by competitive bid in each state and the money from the rebate helps to fund the program. So, one could find it hypocritical that a program designed to promote breastfeeding is receiving money based on the amount of contract formula sold in the state.

    5) Famers’ market options. Many farmers’ markets are starting to accept WIC and SNAP. This is a very positive way the program can support local, smaller agriculture and provide access to the freshest produce.

    6) Vendors. There are many more vendors for SNAP than for WIC. The reason is that to participate in WIC the vendor must have a specific quantity of non-WIC foods available. This is what keeps the convenience store types out of the WIC business. The ability to accept WIC is worth a substantial amount to a vendor. If a cashier is not respectful, report that vendor to your state WIC office. This should be taken seriously and should be a major training point for all cashiers. If vendors have no signage, ask them to get some.

    • says

      Oh, Brian. It always saddens ME when people leave comments on my space without even reading what I have written, here. My first clue that you wrote this without even reading my post is that you spell out what the acronyms stand for as a “point of clarification.” I say what they stand for AND LINK TO THE USDA in the second paragraph. I also mention using the farmers’ market option and how helpful it is, but that my office has yet to receive its vouchers in the middle of JUNE.

      1) Read before commenting. It’s just good manners.

      2) This is not a website devoted to educating the public on how these programs work in general, and I state right there at the beginning that I’m not a professional. My information is correct, but the point of this space is to express my opinion. That opinion, informed by my experience with an independent nutritionist specializing in pregnancy and early childhood (I could afford to consult her before I lost my job and ended up depending on WIC) is that WIC encourages poor nutritional habits. Point of fact: at least three of the cereals we are allotted in giant proportions are FROSTED. As a point of clarification, that means “covered in sugar.”

      3) Finally, by 2020, when the program has eliminated its checks, my kid will be SEVEN.

      4) Please do come to the Shop & Stop in Hamden, Connecticut and try to find a soul who gives a damn about WIC signage. I invite you to try.

      5) It really looks like this list is a description of the job you claim to have done. Perhaps you should send it to your successor.

      6) READ A BLOG POST BEFORE COMMENTING ON IT.

      • Brian Castrucci says

        Well, I did read it. Several times. Attempted to clarify points that needed it and reinforce others. Not a condemnation of what you were stating, but as you said you are not an expert. Unfortunately, while I am able to find value in your comments, you do not share that in the comments of others.

        • says

          I find great value in the comments of others. Your comment repeats things I said in my post, which is not super helpful. I also don’t see why you need to condescend to me in order to defend WIC. The first message “I’m not judging” -repeated in your comment twice- tells me is that I am being judged. I still have no idea what you were trying to say, except that I should be more forgiving of WIC and its problems. And, well, I refuse to do that.

          • Brian Castrucci says

            Okay, you have the acronym wrong. The answer you provide to why is WIC so complicated is wrong. I imagine it is easier to criticize a program that helps to provides assistance to millions of US families rather than getting the facts right and working for positive change.

      • chris says

        You are going to stay on welfare until your kids are 7?..how about you get a job and stop taking from the tax payers. Get 2 jobs like all the hard working citizens. You should be ashamed of yourself taking from your fellow citizens .Maybe you should post a thankyou letter to the taxpayers for giving you all your welfare assistance.

  10. Brian Castrucci says

    Agreed. It is not perfect. The new food package is more nutritious and allows soy and tofu in specific packages. EBT cards solve the partial voucher problem that you correctly identified. Not perfect in the least but there are many working very hard to make it better.

    • SlackerInc says

      Hope so because I support government taking an active role and projecting competence.

      Here in Missouri things are moving in the other direction and we still do not have EBT for WIC.

    • says

      Brian, I just can’t leave this one alone. WIC stands for Women Infants and Children. I don’t care if that’s not the entire name of the program, and maybe I should have put that in there, but the ACRONYM is correctly stated. And your opinion about why it is complicated is different, but my facts are correct. Negotiating about formula = big food companies negotiating with the states. The lowest-priced items rule is *technically* different, but has the same effect. Big companies can keep prices lower and they tend to be less healthy. I AM LIVING THIS. You simply know it from the bureaucratic side, and do you even know it in my state?

      One more thing: you have no idea what it is like to raise a child, file all the paperwork on time, get yourself to and from the store, pay for the car, the apartment, take care of your marriage, and then feel the energy to say “Hey! Let’s go do some activism to improve WIC!” We are lucky enough to see a lot of our son. Many families on entitlements programs are so busy working that they barely get time to play with their kids. And you want them to find free time for advocacy work? You’re dreaming. I feel disempowered after spending an entire day just trying to get an actual social worker on the phone (they did disallow going in person). Asking the people who receive WIC and SNAP to advocate for ourselves, while you stand there nitpicking at details in my attempt to paint a portrait of what life on this side looks? That disgusts me.

  11. Cassie says

    You own a dog, are a stay at home mom, and want to eat organic. Why should I pay for you when I have to work to pay to feed my children when I’d prefer to stay home, can’t afford a dog, and can’t afford organic for my children either?

  12. says

    The BIG problem with WIC is(and I’ve seen it) that it frees up a family’s income to be used for beer, wine, cigarettes and 50 lb. bags of dog food! I could’ve received WIC but chose to give up unnecessary things in order to feed my child.

  13. Whitney says

    The fact that my tax dollars are paying for you to spend extra money on organic food for your family when my family eats only generic brand non-organic food that I work hard to purchase on my own income is completely ridiculous. SNAP is not meant to be a permanent solution, it was made to be a supplementary program to help families get back on there feet.

    • says

      You completely missed the point of this post, and you obviously missed the contribution of many of the people who commented on it. I am not talking about using SNAP even buy organic milk. I am budgeting my grocery money, which includes SNAP, to include organic produce ONLY for my baby and only on certain fruits and vegetables, because there’s good evidence that pesticides are POISON.

      Do you seriously have nothing better to worry about in the state of this country’s finances, during a GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN over funding a law that already passed? You are actually upset about your tax dollars going to the “wrong” GROCERIES?! There is so much wrong with the way tax money is spent. I highly recommend that you put your time and energy into reading about that and complaining about bigger issues.

  14. Tmax says

    First off ive never used any food assistance of any kind in my life. Our family does qualify but we have chose not to except. The thing i find funny is that people bitch about how the tax money is spent recklessly on food but in reality this is prolly one of the least reckless programs our gov funds. Most of the people receiving help pay taxes and therefore contribute to the programs that are assisting them.

    • says

      Thank you! Of all the spending problems our government has, this just is nowhere near the top of the list. We paid taxes before this bump in the road, and we will pay taxes, afterwards. (We file taxes, as it is, but like most of you, I assume, we take the legal deductions and end up getting it back.)

      Speaking of taxes: It’s important to me that this gets noted–once the money goes to the IRS, there is no longer any such thing as “my tax dollars.” It’s a pool of money that pays for running the government. Or not, I suppose, in rare cases.

  15. charlotte simmons says

    Anne-Marie,

    I think the REASON you and your husband dropped below poverty line is what offends some people. From what I can gather from your comments, you qualify for SNAP because you stay at home rather than work (you can’t work out a staggered schedule with your husband that would allow you to take some sort of part time job as my husband and I do?), you proudly admit your husband is using public assistance to put him through a PhD program–surely not the original aim of the program, and you have an upper-class urbanite’s preference for expensive Whole Foods groceries when working middle class people make do with generic brands at Safeway or Kroger’s. All that, plus talking about your therapist, makes it sound like people in far less advantageous situations than yours are paying your monthly grocery bill because we find ways to work while pursuing higher education and parenthood.

    • says

      Charlotte,
      With love and respect in my heart, please let me explain a detail that is really important, here: the government examines our entire yearly income, then the state provides us with a monthly allowance for food, and THEN I budget that allowance. I do not get more money if I spend it all on organic smoothies from Whole Foods. If we run out of food money, we can’t get more. Your tax dollars go to the same place in the treasury, regardless of how those of us on public assistance spend our SNAP dollars.

      We are allowed to budget our own food money, even if that money comes from the state. Out of concern for children’s health, I would like to ban all marketing of unhealthy, sugary foods by using cute cartoon characters, TV commercials and other manipulations that encourage children to eat the food that contributes to America’s obesity epidemic. Despite my concern for this public health emergency, however, it is not my right to tell your family what food to eat. Even though my tax dollars and my son’s future tax dollars will go towards paying for the consequences of this choice. In my opinion, it’s a terrible choice: allowing a child to eat foods that lead to obesity and diabetes. But we live in a country that allows families to make those choices, so I can only hope that educating families will help lead them in a healthier direction. I do not have the right to tell any parent how to spend grocery money, or where, even if I see a direct link between that choice and an expensive public health issue.

      The reasons that we dropped below the poverty line make me ashamed of our society, which has clearly taught many of its members that parenting and higher education are worth so little that no one should have to spend any money supporting anyone else’s effort to parent or learn with true concentration and enjoyment. I am ashamed that our society asks people to work themselves to the bone to make ends meet, and that it does not value family, in any true sense. Why do “family values” not include spending TIME as a family? Study after study reflects that healthy families listen to each other, play together, learn together, eat meals together. These healthy families produce healthy children, who grow up to be productive members of society. Why does a society obsessed with the catch phrase “family values” not give a damn about the families who face the choice to either live in poverty, accept government aid or miss time actually spent as a family? Why does our society not recognize the long-term health benefits of NOT BEING EXHAUSTED all the time by working multiple poorly-paid, part-time jobs, as most families living below or near the poverty line must do?

      We choose time together. I spend at least five hours a week making sure that we keep our benefits which, by the way, come from the same state that pays my husband’s salary–if they paid their graduate students a living wage and provided comprehensive benefits, we wouldn’t be here. I truly understand how tempting it is to look at details like “Whole Foods” rather than the larger picture. I am honestly and respectfully asking you to consider what “family” means and why I HOPE that my family’s past and future tax dollars support families who choose time together over yet another job.

  16. charlotte simmons says

    Well, if you feel proud that you spend that five plus hours a week navigating “the system” rather than participating in paid work that would help your family support itself, then I don’t think there’s anything we can agree on. Many generations of happy families have managed to spend happy time together and still provide for themselves (we do it every day). My husband worked part time as a waiter and took out loans to earn his Masters. We are now slowly but surely paying back those loans out of his increased income. I feel proud of that choice.

    • says

      Please understand where the “pride” comes from in my title: I’m not ashamed to accept assistance, and I am proud of my FAMILY. I think we can agree to disagree on the idea that paid work outside the home is the only way to support a family. I support my family much better in my current role, in the opinion of everyone in that family.

      A side note: earning a master’s degree is a much different and much quicker process than earning a PhD. My husband’s program asks that in return for his salary, he spend time teaching and writing, and his contract stipulates that this ought to be a full-time job. Because they pay him for his work teaching, they have the right to ask that he spend a certain number of hours on his teaching. His dissertation requires the rest of his hours. Unlike a master’s thesis, a dissertation must be a book-length work with a main idea that has never been written by anyone else. I am not for a minute suggesting that what your family went through was in any way easier. I am simply asking you to open yourself to the idea that my family’s position is not comparable to yours.

  17. charlotte simmons says

    I’ll consider what you say but will add my aunt also waited tables while earning a PhD in counselor eduction. She is now the dean of the graduate studies department at Southern Arkansas University, so I’m pretty sure it can be done.

    • says

      Thanks for your consideration! I’m really glad we could be civil. I know that it can be done, but I simply wish for space for the idea that it might not be the best choice for every family. I’m not sure if you noticed that this blog also chronicles my struggle to maintain mental health; choosing to accomplish fewer tasks has decreased my anxiety and increased my productivity. I’m not comfortable speaking for my husband re: his health, mental or physical, but PhD students across the board are now asked to do much more than they were, when your aunt earned hers.

  18. Lisa Ross says

    Every person that complains about others using SNAP and/or WIC is judging, period. Judging without full knowledge of the others situation. Are there people that take advantage of the system? Yes. But of every “system” there always will be. Just because they are on government assistance doesn’t mean they are lazy or incompetent. There are families where both parents work, sometimes even two jobs (or more) each and still need the assistance. Mind you, most using assistance have tax dollars that pay for it just as everyone else.

    We have no right to tell another family what to eat, how or why to eat particular items. I don’t know anyone that would appreciate that. However, I do believe that if you use illegal drugs benefits should be removed. That the receipts be evaluated, if the person us buying beer, alcohol or cigarettes, removed. If the cash can be provided to support a habit/addiction, then it can buy food.

    Here in Texas I do see families that buy BBQ supplies, regularly and use SNAP. I am not talking about $75 for a family weekend, I am talking about spending $300 or more just on meat alone monthly…sometimes more. Then spend cash on the rest. Once in a while, ok, but on a regular basis…if you can party (literally) monthly with your benefits, remove them.

  19. Chippy says

    I always knew when I had a baby I would breastfeed him. Up until this past July when he was born I hadn’t realized breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing. I struggled with it the first few weeks home and ended up using formula samples Enfamil sent me. When I priced out formula and how often they go through a can I almost had a heart attack. I signed up for WIC as a back up in the event that the whole BFing thing didnt work out. So thankfully the lactation consultant at the WIC office ended up helping me perfect the art and I havnt had to give him formula since. We qualify for other assistance but it’s not a dire necessity so we choose not to utilize it. I’m grateful to wic for helping me do what’s best for my baby. I have nothing bad to say about programs that help the needy. And to the lady who uses snap to purchase the healthiest choices possible for your child, I commend you. I live in an area where people trade food purchased with benefits for drugs, alcohol and money. They drink all day and walk around our grass area in their pajamas yelling to each other like complete morons with the foulest language in front of their children that are other times playing in the street unsupervised. I leave for work at 7am they are outside sitting around. I come home around 6…they are still there. Cigarette in one hand beer in the other. YES, THAT PISSES ME OFF. However, there are people like you who have respectable priorities. I’d rather my tax dollars go to your organic apples and tofu than my neighbors manicure and fake nail tips. Thank you for feeding your baby the healthiest way you possibly can. It’s relieving to know SOMEONE uses it properly.

    • says

      I love so much about what you are saying here, ESPECIALLY that the WIC lactation consultants were able to help you so much! YAY, Mama! Congratulations on finding help to do that work. Because BFing? It’s work. Formula IS crazy expensive, and the one thing that I like about WIC is that, when there are good lactation consultants available to moms like you, their policy of supplementing, but not entirely paying for, formula takes the pressure off mom and baby while you learn. (That’s a controversial point of view, but it’s my opinion!)

      And thanks for seeing the big picture with what I’m trying to say in this post. If you don’t buy healthy food, you’re abusing the system. If I buy organic, I’m abusing the system. NOPE. If I use my EBT card for stuff that’s allowed and then my family consumes that food: that’s just USING the system. I totally understand choosing not to use it, too, because it is so much work to get in and stay in! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  20. Debra Guenterberg says

    I noticed you seemed miffed because someone forgot to add your son. Just want to know why would you have another child if youcanncannot (oops) afford to feed them?

    • says

      I usually delete these. But as the holidays come and go, I’d like people like you to look at the children around you and ask yourselves: “do I know for sure that these children ought to be here, or ought not be here? How do I know?” I’ve gotten several of these comments, and they display a coldness, ignorance and lack of humanity that makes me shudder. I am shocked every time someone implies that we give away or put down our dog, but I don’t even have words for the suggestion that I ought to have terminated my pregnancy when I lost my job. We were comfortably above the poverty line when we chose to have a child, and losing my income after I was already pregnant is what put us below that line. I pray for you, and others who not only think, but actually express, such horrific thoughts. I pray that you find some love and kindness in your heart.

  21. mm08 says

    I love this post and agree with everything, from your opinion about Wal-Mart and organics to the guilty feeling of using SNAP. But our families need to eat, and the government’s aware of that. Reading this was very helpful because I just found out I’m pregnant for the first time and am struggling to understand WIC. Also the way SNAP’s rules change every month our amount here in Kansas is endlessly going up and down and my husband and I have been kicked off twice for making too much ($8,000 per year total household salary is considered too much. Yikes.)

    • says

      Well, the good news is that once you’re a family of three, your SNAP money should be easier to hang onto and more consistent. The bad news is that I can’t even keep up with all the changes happening.
      As for WIC, I’m assuming that signing up is similar across states–your first “appointment” is very long, because they explain how it works and then meet with each new family privately to discuss your individual needs. There’s a lot of time to ask questions, so you just have to manage getting someone who knows the answer or is willing to find out for you. I hope your WIC office is nice; ours was quite lovely. We don’t use it anymore, because it wasn’t worth the effort, but it really did help when I was pregnant and the baby was first born. Here’s hoping that Kansas no longer uses dot-matrix-printed checks and that you like Cheerios! (So many boxes of Cheerios…)

  22. Krystal says

    Some of your comments about wic are false. I work there for six years and wic never allows frosted flakes. Read thing wic food guide.. Sugary cereals are not allowed. The supermarket you are shopping at fooled you intto thinking thats a WIC item the frosted flakes and its not. Alot of times the store gives you want they want you to have and not whats really offered on wic. And thats why I tell my clients to report the store so they can be fined. I agree the wic needs to updated alot of things on there program such as offering fresh fruits and vegetables to infants but alot of times that participants are not reading the food guide properly.

  23. Faith says

    I came across your website when I was trying to understand WIC and SNAP benefits. I am a military spouse and have been separated from my husband for 2 years because I have been unable to find a job that makes anything close to what I make now. We just recently had a baby and the benefits could really help our financial situation allowing us to live together as a family.
    Thank you for simplifying the process. It really helps a newbie like me. I don’t feel ashamed whatsoever about our situation. For anyone who did have a nasty comment to make I would just ignore them. I remind myself that my husband sacrifices his life for all Americans, even those that he disagrees with, and that is an example of Christ in my opinion. If they don’t like how I live and the sacrifices I make, that is there issue.

    • says

      You are so right. Turn the other cheek, right? It is much healthier to take a breath and remind myself that they don’t know much about me from a WIC check or a SNAP card, and that I know that our lives are something to be proud of. So many prayers for your family. Persistence is the key to getting through this process. Just keep filing paperwork, and you’ll eventually make headway!

  24. Kirk says

    So it seems you were on SNAP and WIC at the same time is that true? We are dealing with the same sort of thing in our family as my partner is pregnant. We have SNAP and are working on getting WIC but aren’t sure if you can be on both.

    • says

      Hi Kirk! The two programs are completely separate, and you can be on both at the same time. This is, in fact, encouraged! If you have both, Mama and Baby(ies) can eat WIC foods and put a big dent in the grocery bill, letting you stretch your SNAP dollars further.

  25. Sarah says

    Thank you for this piece. I began receiving WIC less than a week ago and am in the process of applying for SNAP. For the record, both my partner and I work full time, I have my Master’s, and he is continuing his education by going to school full time with the aim of improving our station. We are not just laying about with the aim of mooching off the system as seems to be the common misconception about WIC/SNAP recipients.

    My first experience trying to use a voucher was horrible, and I’m relieved to know that I’m not alone in that department. The guide I was given by a WIC office 4 days ago listed foods that the vendor (Rainbow Foods – a major grocery store in MN) insisted did not qualify. For example, Pepperidge Farm’s whole wheat bread is clearly photographed and listed as a WIC option, as are a number of other brands of wheat bread. At the check out line I was told that I the only get brand that I could get was Sara Lee Classic wheat (a pretty uninspiring loaf if you are unfamiliar). Juice was a similar issue. I am not a fan of grape or apple since they always taste cloyingly sweet to me; so there goes a good chunk of my options. Same problem with meeting the vitamin C requirements while also avoiding blends. Across the fridge and shelf-stable items I couldn’t find anything except orange juice that was a single fruit juice with 120% of the daily vitamin C allowance. Almost everything just had 100%. Then, to make it even better, after scanning probably 20 non-frozen oj options, I realized all of them were 59 oz, not 64 oz containers. I grabbed a carton and figured that getting a smaller amount must be acceptable since 64 oz containers don’t seem to exist anymore. NOPE. I will say that my cashier was really apologetic and sweet about it; it was more the death glares I got from the people in line behind me as I ran back and forth to get the “right” items that made the experience excruciating. That and the fact that I tried extremely hard to follow the guide and still failed.

    I have to say that one of things I find most frustrating as I research WIC and SNAP is the number of people who complain about struggling to feed their families and not qualifying for aid and then attack people who are aid recipients. First of all, I can’t help but suspect that at least some of them would have accepted assistance if they could have, and their anti-WIC/SNAP stances developed after they themselves could not benefit from the programs. Secondly, if you make enough that you can’t qualify for food assistance and are still struggling, why on earth would you deprive people who make so little they do qualify from getting any help that they can? There’s this “I have little so you should have less” attitude that makes absolutely no sense to me.

    • says

      Thank you for leaving this comment, today. I didn’t quite know what to say to the one just above yours. Not an awesome way to start my morning, that.

      I, too, am most confused by comparisons between lives, as though my prioritizing organic and discomfort with all the sugar in juice has anything to do with anything that anyone else eats. I simply don’t understand.

  26. gina says

    Great article. Thank you. Can you provide any more specifics on what I can buy and not buy with SNAP at Whole Foods? Much appreciated.

  27. Laura says

    I came across your page here while searching for an ingredients label for the one and only approved loaf of bread available with WIC coupons where I shop, Sara Lee classic whole wheat- nasty stuff. The people on here who complain about WIC recipients “spending their tax dollars” apparently have no clue just how LITTLE that program provides. Six dollars a month total for all fruits and veggies, for instance. I noticed that no one seems to have mentioned the deadbeat dads who so often force us into seeking assistance. Maybe if the powers that be took failure to pay support seriously, instead of ignoring the problem, more mothers could get off of assistance. Or another question for the complainers: Have they any clue how much of their tax dollars go to corporate welfare? Subsidies and tax write offs for companies that make billions in profit, pay their CEOs obscene amounts of money and outsource our jobs, leaving us to struggle here? It is in the thousands annually, the amount they personally pay out of their tax money going to corporate welfare, while SNAP and welfare benefits probably total less than $200 annually. They are angry at the wrong people. I am a single mother of two who would very much like to have a decent full time job to support my children on my own. Child care full time here is about $1200 month. That would have to be some good job, to have anything left to pay rent or anything else after that bill. So what did I do, I cut that bill to $900 for 3 days per week, and am a full time student. In my mid-40s. I am now supporting my children with school loans, most of it going to child care, (and no, nothing subsidized in my area) disqualifying me for food stamps, as I kick the can and hope everything works out in the end, and I don’t just have a degree and debt. I literally did not know what else to do. So the people on here hating on those who are forced to seek assistance should feel lucky they don’t have to do so, and stop labeling everyone who does as a “taker” and believing we are all lazy and worthless. You know who is lazy and worthless? Those CEOs who are REALLY the ones stealing your hard earned money and paying zero taxes as they stash everything in offshore accounts. *Kick soap box back under the sink, goes back to my homework* Good blog, Anne-Marie Lindsay, glad I came across it.

    • says

      Thank you! I hold my breath (literally) whenever I get email that someone has commented on this post. But seriously, the WIC recommendations are like a guide to raising kids who tend toward obesity! All the bad habits! All outdated nutrition info. Has no one funding this thing ever seen a freaking food pyramid? I know that it’s “supplemental” but they are DIScouraging consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. So ridiculous.

  28. I Don't Understand Your Thought Process says

    Hello, I was directed to this website from the comments section of an article that I was reading about income inequality….I am confused as to how you can be “proud” to be on any sort of government assistance….you should be grateful, not proud…I noticed another commenter mentioned something similar and your response was the predictable diatribe about being down on your luck and a temporary position etc and that you work overtime (gasp!) while your husband finishes his dissertation, at which point you expect to move up 4 income brackets (whatever that means…)…Guess what, I’m a father of two and support my wife who stays home to raise our children…I work for a modest salary while also pursuing an MBA… I provide for my family by putting a roof over their heads, food on the table, love and support at the house without ever taking a dime from the government…My point is you’re making an excuse for your situation rather than doing something about it….I was raised by my father who worked two jobs and went to school at night to make sure I was taken care of….As far as what you are “allowed” to buy with your welfare, you should not be complaining! It is at zero cost to you…if you don’t like your options, do something to change them…you are an example of why our society is in decline…congratulations

    • says

      I am not proud OF using government assistance, I am proud, in general, of my life choices (not ashamed) and also use government assistance. This post was specifically written to explain the difference between two programs; ask any nutritionist what he thinks of WIC’s recommendations, and he will tell you that they are outdated. I complain about the poor in this country being left with no alternative but unhealthy choices. I do not complain about my own situation, since I am lucky enough to have so much help and also be able to raise my son, with his father, spending time as a family. We prioritize that over earning more at minimum wage jobs. I do have three work-from-home jobs. We work hard. So do lots of families who cannot make ends meet, no matter how hard they work. That is a reason for a decline in our society, if in fact there is one. I pray that you find more kindness in your heart, and a deeper tolerance for choices that are different from yours.

  29. Louie Louie says

    I can’t believe I actually finish reading this post. I would like to point out few facts. 1, your husband let his family survive on WIC and SNAP. 2, throught out the whole blog I did not seem one word from him defending your honor. 3, He is the one on PHD program, and you are not. I believe that man were born to protect his love ones. A man without pride is a man doesn’t worth a dime. I dont know you well but I just comment on my obervation.

    • says

      You’re entitled to your views on gender roles, but we certainly don’t subscribe to the ones you’re describing. No one suffered any loss of pride.

  30. luella says

    if anyone sees this and buys wic at walmart, on the price label there is a little bold w on right upper corner if its wic approved. i was complaining to my hubby about how hard it is to shop for wic and he works there and told me that inside info and it has helped greatly… as for peanutbutter…there is a brand walmart sells where ingredients were solely peanuts and salt.

  31. Beth Stockton says

    Thank you for this post. I stumbled upon it after googling info on using WIC. I recently resigned from my full time job because the stress was not healthy for my (surprise twin) pregnancy. I also have a 4 year old son and my husband works full time as a teacher. We applied and found out yesterday that we were approved for Medicaid and WIC. I will admit it was VERY humbling to see the words “pregnant woman in poverty” as the reason for acceptance. I have a BA is education and never in my life thought I would need government assistance, but I am so grateful to know it is there for us.
    I could continue working and work after the twins come, but we would be sinking 400 plus dollars a week in child care costs and basically go bankrupt with medical bills and the general expenses of living (I’m talking necessities- we don’t have cable tv or spend any money on entertainment). I feel like we are making the best decision for our family for this season in life.

    • says

      Thank you for writing this one the same day that I delete a comment that called my son a horrible name. I sometimes wonder why I put this out there, but it’s for this exact reason – some of us are choosing to enjoy our lives instead of ruining our health with jobs we hate and don’t earn much doing. Good luck to you, and may you have a joyful pregnancy and birthing!

  32. R says

    I just spent an hour reading your article and the comments. I consider myself a fairly sharp tongued human, but there is absolutely no way I could have handled all of the misdirected, stupid, hateful, and odd comments the way you did. Bravo. Good for you—for choosing to be a family. You realize that your son’s childhood is finite. He needs his parents. I can only HOPE that a percentage of the dollars that my family spends on taxes help families like yours. You put the know-it-all SNAP/WIC “expert” back where he belongs. Love it! And who the hell is this “chris” guy? That guy…..ew. EW!
    Way to stay strong.
    –R

    • says

      Thank you for this comment! I had to block an email address from commenting – the ones I delete are really beyond belief. My criteria involve “is this an actual argument, or just an insult?” and “is there a question, here?” As you can see, I don’t delete every negative comment. But the one saying my son is just a “welfare rat” went straight to the trash! I wish I was always able to respond with equanimity, but I think when I do, I encourage discussion. Leaving up cruel and insulting comments serves no purpose. But I do need strength to moderate comments here!

  33. Please Get A Clue People says

    I just wanted to say that I find the people who are upset about their tax dollars going towards people who are “choosing” to sit at home obviously have never needed assistance. That is good for you! But your conceitedness will one day land you to choose between receiving assistance or going without the basic needs for survival. How dare anyone reprimand someone for using assistance after the government rigorously approved them to receive help. There is very little room to try to cheat the system like some might think. Especially because your tax dollars go to fund a lot more “important” things like: unnecessary wars. The point is that the US spends a ridiculous amount of money abroad and people are mad that we are spending at home to take care of our own people. That is just ludicrous! Who cares if they choose to shop at Whole Foods?! The only people who are mad that they are using SNAP at Whole Foods is because they wish they could! Shame those people are like crabs in a barrel, they figure that since they can’t afford it neither should you. There is hate in their hearts to think that someone should choose to abort their pregnancies because life happened and their situation changed. Shame on you!

  34. HB says

    This article is really helpful to me. I’m pregnant and severely gluten intolerant (probably celiac … but not formally tested or diagnosed), also lactose intolerant, and can tolerate only miniscule quantities of corn and peanuts without getting sick. People I know have been telling me to apply for WIC and I’ve been trying to decide whether it would even be worthwhile for us given my dietary needs. I would be able to use the beans, eggs, juice, possibly canned fish (??) and rice (depending on the allowed brands … a lot of rice is cross-contaminated with wheat). Would it be worth the hassle and humiliation? I’m still not sure. Hoping to scrape by without it.

    I feel there needs to be more sensitivity to food allergies in programs like this, especially if they are going to be so controlling. Wheat and milk almost destroyed my intestines; it’s depressing to see them glorified by the government as staples of a healthy diet. I just completed a class that included a state-run nutrition course, and the nutritionist admitted that the reason why she has to talk so much about the benefits of milk is that her program is being funded by Big Dairy.

    Thanks again for braving the naysayers in order to put this information out there.

    • says

      I learned to love sardines! One of the healthiest pregnant lady foods out there. But not covered–they would direct you to tuna, and it was the less yummy kind. You’ll get enough eggs and beans to last 10 years, but you probably won’t like your juice options. There’s usually only one brand of rice allowed. We just stopped going. But if your area has a farmer’s market program, that was the one awesome perk! Unfortunately, they still didn’t get it going by the middle of last summer, when we stopped getting new paper tickets. It was so much work for so little nutrition. (And hey, naysayers, I’m not complaining about work–I’m complaining that all that work by all those people, and all those tax dollars, yield such little reward!)

    • Nicky says

      You can get some gluten free cereals, the beans, rice eggs, tuna, vegetables and with a Dr. note lactose free milk. I take lactose intolerance capsules so I can eat the cheese.

  35. T says

    I just want to say thank you for being a voice for those of use who need assistance, temporarily, in order to survive and get back on our feet. I have a college degree and a teaching certificate and find it humbling and, at times, feel ashamed, to be on SNAP. But, as an adult, we sometimes have to put away our idealized beliefs, our pride, and do whatever it takes in order to support our family. It is just a fact of life right now. I apply for jobs everyday, of every kind, not just teaching. There seems to be a disconnect in those who judge and say, “get a job.” I’d love to get a job. I love being self-sufficient. The reality is that jobs are few and far between. For the last teaching job that I applied for there had been 45 applicants for that one job. Currently, it is a tough job market and a tough economy. It is a privileged perspective indeed to say there should not be welfare of any kind. How nice for you. But also, how sad for you, to be so wholly selfish as to not take into account the many families living below the poverty line. Thank you, Ann-Marie, for writing this blog. Maybe it will help someone feel a little less ashamed that they need some help right now.

    • Julie says

      Hello

      Thanks for all this information. We don’t qualify for we are over a month :-/ but have an appointment to apply for wic.

      Some people are so judgmental. My husband and I are both well educated and he is working overtime at a poorly paying job to pay our bills after losing his 1099 position. I had a child two years ago and would love to now return to work and can’t get hired anywhere, not even walmart or mcdonalds. After bills we have $50 left to buy gas, groceries, clothes and medicine. We are uninsured. Why should we feel guilty for accepting the help we can get when we have no choice.

      • says

        I hope it’s still relevant information; things seems to change too quickly or not at all. I find that the most ignorant comments try to shame us for having kids, saying it’s “irresponsible” if we can’t support them. Since I can’t tell the future, and don’t know anyone who can do it for me, I’m going to roll with what happened to make us so financially unstable and accept the help we need!

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