What to Expect at your First WIC Appointment

Two days ago, I posted a photo to my Instagram of my new WIC Ohio Direction card. For the last three-ish years, I've worked for a Foodbank and have worked day in and day out with families who receive government assistance. I believe that these social safety nets are imperative for our nation's most vulnerable and believe even more strongly in the courage these families possess that compels them to ask for help when they need it. Our country's policies are not supportive of working families, which can lead to really difficult financial situations for families like mine. I feel strongly about all of this, and yet, when it came time to my go to my WIC appointment, I felt two inches tall.

When I resigned from my full-time position in November, it was not a decision that was made in haste. Many budget spreadsheets and tears went into that resignation letter. I looked at our average monthly income for the previous 12 months and deduced that if we cut our expenses in six categories, we would save $1,400/month that would allow for us to survive on one-income. I use the term "survive," because I was under no impression that we would be living in the lap of luxury. We would be scrimping and pinching pennies just to pay our bills. But I decided I could pay someone to raise my kids and spend 50 hours a week away from them, or I could "live on love" and enjoy this fleeting time with my babies. By now, you should know what I chose.

My budget plan worked well, in theory. Of course, as we know, things don't usually go according to our best laid plans. For starters, Chuck's employer changed their commission structure several months ago. So while he has worked as hard, if not harder, as he did last year, he's not making nearly as much. Strike One. Strike Two was the fact that I failed to account for the fact that Chuck's benefits plan was not as splendid as the one we enjoyed with my former employer so I did not properly account for how much our medical, dental and vision insurance would leach from his paychecks. We also got hit with some big unexpected expenses that I won't go into.

So despite the fact that Chuck now works a full-time job, and a part-time job two evenings per week and I have various side hustles going on that contribute a small amount to our family's income, we got to a point where no amount of budgeting could change the fact that we just didn't have enough to pay our bills.

For those who don't know, to qualify for federal assistance you must meet income eligibility guidelines. For the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) your income must fall under 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. For the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program, it must fall under 185% of the federal poverty guidelines. Although, our income exceeds the amount necessary to qualify for SNAP, we did meet the WIC requirements. So two days ago, I went to my appointment and here's what I learned:


1. YOUR APPOINTMENT WILL TAKE AWHILE. Ours took two hours. I came unarmed with my usual arsenal of snacks and juice, and had to entertain two kiddos under two for hours while we went through the entire process.

2. YOU WILL NEED DOCUMENTATION. They will let you know exactly what you need to bring with you when you make your appointment, but basically you need paystubs to prove your income eligibility, identification for all recipients (you + kids) and a proof of address (utility bill, etc.).

3. YOU WILL HAVE A SMALL CHECK-UP w/ A NURSE. If you're breastfeeding, they will take your height and weight, and take a small blood sample to check your iron. They'll also do the same for your kiddos.

4. YOU WILL SIT THROUGH NUTRITION EDUCATION. Our nurse was perfectly nice, but this part felt rough for me. I had to sit through an intro course on nutrition for breastfeeding Moms, which I'll be honest, I pretty much know what I need to know. She was also perfectly nice when she asked me questions about what and how I feed myself and my kids. My family is pretty healthy and I still felt a little like a terrible parent. I got "dinged" for making special meals for my toddler when he won't eat what I've prepared and for giving him a sippy cup rather than a regular cup.

5. YOU WILL BE GIVEN A BIBLE OF ACCEPTABLE FOODS. The requirements for what you can and cannot purchase with your WIC allowance are insanely specific. I was provided with a pamphlet that contained information on acceptable brands, sizes, and types of product that is allowed by WIC. It's a little bit overwhelming.

6. YOU WILL GET IT WRONG ON YOUR FIRST SHOPPING TRIP. I followed the "Bible" and my "prescription" to the T when I went for my first shopping trip post-appointment. I thought I had gotten everything right, but still wound up spending $5 of my own money because I accidentally bought two loaves of 24-oz bread instead of the approved 16-oz bread. Yeah, I told you it was insanely specific.

I hope this helps shed some light for those who are in need, but may be reluctant to make the call. Or perhaps you're someone who doesn't believe in or understand federal assistance programs, but would like to know more. Obviously, I can only speak to my experience, and although it was overwhelming at times, I am so thankful for the WIC program and what a blessing it is for our family. If you have more questions about WIC or other assistance programs, please ask away! There is no shame in doing what is necessary to provide for your babies.


  1. It is an insane process for the first appt! I can testify that the second one was much quicker! So glad to hear you're doing what you need to do to provide for your family! Can we swap WIC strategies??!!

  2. Valuable insight. Thanks for sharing to help others!

  3. Love how you shared it. We had WIC for a few years when my son was born (hubby was a full time student and my part time work wasn't cutting it) and it was such a blessing!! But I feel you on the being about 2 feet tall......... and the specifics of the shopping!! This is such a helpful post. Wish I had had this to prepare me for my first appointment.

  4. There is nothing wrong with asking for help if you need it, and of course if the government is going to offer this kind of assistance and you meet the requirement, you should use it. However, I do not share your passionate support of this type of assistance for all situations. If I were to quit my job, we would certainly fall under the requirements for help as well. As you know, I would love to stay at home, but I can provide for our family better if I continue working, and just to give you some insight about this from someone on the less Democratic political side, it feels a bit unfair that someone (in this case you, but I don't mean to call you out specifically) can *choose* to not work, not because they can't find work or bc of a disability or something, and then receive assistance when other people (me) are working and paying the taxes that allow the government to provide this service. It's frustrating to think that I pay $200 a MONTH for R to be on my insurance and still pay thousands for a doctor's bill and yet someone else can go to the ER 7 days a week for free if they wanted to (we know an ER dr who tells us stories about ppl on gov assistance who come in for headaches just because they can). Anyway, I have thoughts and I know we don't totally agree (which is fine) but I just really felt like I needed to share from my perspective. If I have come off sounding like a jerk I really do apologize. I'm sure this information will be helpful to a lot of people.

  5. We struggle but not enough to qualify for anything. And I disagree with the above comment. Childcare is insanely expensive. If we had better options for mothers in terms of how to afford childcare then maybe some families wouldn't have to make that difficult choice between work or staying home. It's hard any way you slice it but being a SAHM can be more of a sacrifice than a luxury. The idea is to get short term support,not make it a lifestyle which is what you are highlighting. And what about those childless/single years when you were contributing to the tax system? I can't complain about some of my dollars going to help others because I don't know when I might be the one needing it. Thank goodness it's there!