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What It Is

What Is the Kentucky WIC Program? If you are pregnant, recently had a baby, are breastfeeding or have a child younger than 5 years of age, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) could help you.

WIC provides: 
  • Nutrition education and services;
  • Breastfeeding promotion and education;
  • A monthly food prescription of nutritious foods; and
  • Access to health-care services.
WIC-related applications, forms, contacts, suggested materials and additonal information

Why WIC is Important

WIC saves lives and improves the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children. 

Since its beginning in 1974, the WIC Program has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful Federally-funded nutrition programs in the United States. Collective findings of studies, reviews and reports demonstrate that the WIC Program is cost effective in protecting or improving the health/nutritional status of low-income women, infants and children. 

The following highlights some of the findings (references are provided).

Improved Birth Outcomes and Savings in Health Care Costs 
Research has shown that the WIC Program has been playing an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs. A series of reports published by USDA based on linked 1988 WIC and Medicaid data on more than 100,000 births found that every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid women in five states resulted in: 
  • longer pregnancies;
  • fewer premature births;
  • lower incidence of moderately low and very low birth weight infants;
  • fewer infant deaths;
  • a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care; and
  • savings in health care costs from $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth.
Improved Diet and Diet-Related Outcomes 
Studies have found WIC to have a positive effect on children's diet and diet-related outcomes such as: 
  • higher mean intakes of iron, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6, without an increase in food energy intake, indicating an increase in the nutrient density of the diet;
  • positive effects on the intakes of 10 nutrients without an adverse effect on fat or cholesterol;
  • more effective than other cash income or food stamps at improving preschoolers' intake of key nutrients; and
  • decline in the rate of iron deficiency anemia from 7.8 percent in 1975 to 2.9 percent in 1985 which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed to both a general improvement in iron nutrition and participation in WIC and other public nutrition programs.
Improved Infant Feeding Practices 
WIC promotes breastfeeding as the optimal method of infant feeding. Studies show: 
  • WIC breastfeeding policy and program activites were strengthened in the early 1990s;
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the percentage of WIC mothers breastfeeding in the hospital increased by almost 25 percent, from 46.6 to 58.2 percent;
  • The percentage of WIC infants breastfeeding at six months of age increased by 61.2 percent, from 12.9 to 20.8 percent; and,
  • Among infants fed infant formula, 90 percent received iron-fortified formula, which is recommended for nearly all nonbreastfed infants for the first year of life.
Immunization Rates and Regular Source of Medical Care 
A regular schedule of immunizations is recommended for children from birth to age 2, which coincides with the period during which many low-income children participate in WIC. Studies have found significantly improved rates of childhood immunization and regular medical care associated with WIC participation. 

Improved Cognitive Development 
Cognitive development influences school achievement and behavior. Participation in the WIC program has been shown to: 
  • improve vocabulary scores for children of mothers who participated in WIC during pregnancy; and
  • significantly improve memory for numbers for children enrolled in WIC after the first year of life.
Improved Preconception Nutritional Status 
Preconception nutritional status is an important determinant of birth outcome. Good nutrition before, during and between pregnancies contributes to healthy births.  One study found: 
  • women enrolled in WIC both during pregnancy and postpartum periods delivered infants with higher mean birth weights in a subsequent pregnancy than women who received WIC prenatally only; and,
  • the women who received postpartum benefits had higher hemoglobin levels and lower risk of maternal obesity at the onset of the subsequent pregnancy.
Other Improved Outcomes 
WIC participation has also been shown to: 
  • increase the likelihood of children having a regular provider of medical care; and,
  • improve growth rates.
  • WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality.
  • WIC reduces low birth weight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy.
  • WIC improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children.
  • WIC decreases the incidence of iron deficiency anemia in children.
  • WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women and improves weight gain in pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women participating in WIC receive prenatal care earlier.
  • Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up to date immunizations.
  • WIC helps get children ready to start school: children who receive WIC benefits demonstrate improved intellectual development.
  • WIC significantly improves children’s diets.

WIC: Strengthening Kentucky Families for 40 Years

In 1972, the U.S. Congress legislated the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as a two-year pilot project, under the Department of Agriculture, linking health care and food assistance for pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants and children considered at health risk because of malnutrition and low income. 

Following the two-year trial, in 1974, the WIC Program (later renamed the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) officially began in Pineville, Ky.

Deborah Holland and her son Robert Marlin Holland were the first participants to be certified at the first WIC clinic in Pineville January 1974. The people there to greet Holland and her son were Betty Hopkins the public health nurse at the Pineville clinic, Peggy Kidd Staley, then-director of nutrition for the state of Kentucky and Dr. Laurel True the chief state health officer for the state of Kentucky. 

The WIC Program in Kentucky has grown over the years. By September 1974, the new WIC Program was serving 8,000 WIC clients in Bell, Bourbon, Boyd, Breathitt, Campbell, Carter, Clinton, Elliott, Floyd, Fulton, Harlan, Jefferson, Kenton, Knott, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, Muhlenberg, Perry, Pulaski, Rowan and Wayne counties. Kentucky became a statewide program in 1978. 

An additional 15 states participated in the first evaluation of the two-year pilot program that led to the establishment of WIC as a nationwide nutrition assistance program. Vermont implemented the first statewide WIC Program. The other states were; Alabama, Connecticut, Mississippi, New York, Texas, Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Vermont, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, South Carolina, Wisconsin.

Nationally, in 1975, the program served approximately 344,000 at-risk women, infants, and children up to the age of five with $83 million in funding. It was estimated in 1972 that 3 percent of income-eligible women participated in WIC. That percentage rose to 40 percent by 1980 and to more than 50 percent in the 1990s.  

Today 40 years later, WIC monthly food prescription, tailored to meet the specific needs of WIC clients, is provided nationally to more than 8.9 million participants each month through 10,000 clinics nationwide in 2012.  

WIC is recognized as the nation’s premier public health nutrition program. It has gained this reputation and garnered strong, continued bipartisan support because of its cost-effective, scientifically documented health successes. 

Gateway To Good Health

WIC is a short-term intervention program designed to strengthen families by influencing lifetime nutrition and health behaviors in a targeted, high-risk population. 

To participate, WIC requires that clients have one or more documented nutritional risks and income less than or equal to 185 percent of the poverty level or on Medicaid. Roughly 64 percent of WIC participants reside in families with income below the poverty level. In 2010, 86 percent of pregnant women, 85 percent of breastfeeding women and 87 percent of postpartum women participants were between the ages of 18-34 and 5 percent of women participants were younger than 17.

Birth Outcomes Successes

Today, approximately 52 percent of pregnant women enroll in WIC during their first trimester and 25 percent of pregnant women enrolled have three or more nutrition risk factors. 

Studies have shown that pregnant women who participate in WIC have longer pregnancies leading to fewer premature births; give birth to fewer low and very low birth-weight babies; experience fewer fetal and infant deaths; seek prenatal care earlier in pregnancy; and consume more of such key nutrients as iron, protein, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin A.   

It costs approximately $759 a year for a WIC participant. Preterm births cost the U.S. more than $26 billion a year and the average first-year medical costs for a premature/low birth-weight baby is $49,033 compared to $4,551 for a baby without complications. Medicaid participants on WIC have on average 29 percent lower Medicaid costs for infant hospitalizations.   

Breastfeeding Successes

WIC promotes breastfeeding as the preferred method of infant feeding.  Breastfeeding helps mothers feel close to their babies. Breast milk contains all the nutrients needed to grow and develop. 

Breastfed infants tend to be healthier because they receive antibodies from breast milk that protects against infection. In 2010, survey data indicated that 63 percent of WIC infants ages 6-13 months were breastfed. Participation in the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program is associated with an increased rate of breastfeeding initiation. 

Children's Health Successes

WIC enables parents to properly feed their children during critical early years of growth and development, assuring normal growth, reducing levels of anemia, increasing immunization rates, improving access to regular health care and improving diets. 

Today 50 percent of all infants born in the United States are on WIC. WIC interventions can help improve health behaviors that are linked to reducing early childhood obesity. 

Food package changes in 2009 were followed by improved dietary intake and obesity reduction among WIC children. WIC nutrition education leads to an increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, and lower-fat milk. Participation in WIC significantly increases the healthy eating index scores for households. 

Applying For WIC

How To Apply for WIC Benefits 
Contact the WIC Program or  local health department serving your area or use the link below to see if you qualify. 

You will be asked to provide proper ID, proof of residence and information about your household income to help determine if you meet program guidelines. 

Most applicants are eligible for WIC who receive KTAP, food stamps or Medicaid, or: 

  • Are pregnant or have a pregnant woman or infant in the family who receives Medicaid, or
  • Have a member of your family who receives KTAP, or
  • Have a household income at or less than 185 percent of poverty.
Successful applicants will be given a simple health and diet screening to assess nutritional or health needs.

WIC Income Guidelines.pdf

Use the WIC Prescreening Tool to see if you may be eligible.

Related Links 

How To Become a WIC Vendor

Retail Vendor Applicants: To be authorized WIC vendors and accept food instruments, stores must:
  • Complete a Vendor Application (fillable form) and a Price List (fillable form). 
  • Receive an on-site visit by the local health department.
  • Meet inventory requirements .
  • Review and sign a Vendor Agreement and an Agreement Amendment or EBT Agreement. The application and vendor agreement will be reviewed with the vendor applicant by the local agency and submitted to the state agency for approval.
  • Provide vendor sales to the state agency regarding gross sales and food sales prior to approval of the contract.
  • Provide additional information such as a bill of sale, tax return information and other proof of ownership or other documents as requested.
  • Receive vendor training and complete a Vendor Training Checklist on the operation of the WIC Program.
  • Receive an authorized WIC vendor stamp from the local agency along with a copy of the signed and approved vendor agreement.
Instructions for completing these forms can be found in the Information Manual for vendor applicants.

Drug Store Vendor Applicants 
Drug stores will follow the same procedures as retail vendors but will need to use the drug store price list . 

Kentucky WIC FIT

Obesity is a common nutritional concern among low-income preschool children, one of the WIC program target populations.

Statistics from the 2002 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System show about 17 percent of children ages 2, 3 and 4 are already overweight. Nutritional counseling for the program targets obesity and encourages physical activity. 


In 1997, a collaboration on the issue of obesity began between the Kentucky WIC Program and the Children's Hospital Medical Center (CHMC). In 1999, the WIC Program and CHMC submitted a WIC special projects proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Kentucky received a three-year grant to develop action plans to prevent childhood obesity.  

The initiative was designed to examine ways WIC could better respond to the issue of childhood obesity. WIC's broad access to the population of young, low-income children at greatest risk for obesity makes it especially well equipped to reach that population - a critical ability for any successful prevention effort. The obesity grant research team was led by Robert Whitaker, MD, MPH, social scientist from CHMC.


The project addressed the problem of childhood obesity prevention in the WIC program by providing an intervention aimed at changing the attitudes and perceptions of health professionals on the subject of obesity in 2- to 5-year-old children. To bring about changes in attitude, a videotape was developed for health professionals that included interviews with mothers whose children are enrolled in WIC. The video was designed to inform, educate and motivate the public on the problem of obesity.

The videotape Beyond Nutrition Counseling: Reframing the Battle Against Obesity was produced by Video Action Fund, a non-profit production company specializing in television program and educational video production for outreach campaigns. These Telly Award-winning videotapes use day-in-the-life segments with three low-income WIC clients to highlight the struggles parents face raising young children.  

The research team published  four articles in professional journals . 

Kentucky WIC FIT Activity Kit

The Kentucky FIT WIC Activity Kit, adapted from Vermont's WIC FIT Project, is a resource for educators of families with young children, including WIC, Head Start, childcare, preschoolers and their families. It provides physical activity lesson plan ideas for preschoolers and their families. By involving parents and caregivers of children in helping with the lessons, we hope to encourage continued participation in the activities at home.

The activities in the WIC FIT Activity Kit are based on the following concepts:
  • Children learn by doing and young children use movement to explore their environment.  Learning physical skills are as important as learning colors, numbers and letters.
  • Children need adult help to further develop and expand their motor competence.
  • Parents are their child's first and most important teachers. 
  • Parents who are involved in their child's play contribute greatly to their child's overall development.
  • Outdoor playtime is more likely to produce vigorous physical activity in young children than indoor playtime.
  • Children benefit from being physically active every day. 
  • Regular physical activity improves mood, overall health, and prevents overweight and related diseases.
The Activity Kit 
The  WIC Fit Activity Guide provides physical activity lesson plans (WICtivities), reproducible parent handouts for each lesson and a resource section for further learning opportunities. It also includes:
  • Two beach balls
  • Playtime Favorites CD
  • Bodywise CD
  • Playing with Your Baby Booklet (English and Spanish)
  • Playing with Your 3- to 5-year-old Booklet (English and Spanish)
  • Playing with Your Toddlers Booklet (English and Spanish)
  • The Berenstein Bears and Too Much TV Book
  • The Berentein Bears and Too Much Junk Food Book
  • It's Fun to Play Everyday Coloring Book
  • Children Growing Health Booklet (English and Spanish)
  • Just Move It Pads
For further information please contact  Jennifer Wyatt.

WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Since 1992, the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) has helped promote local farmers markets and bring locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables into the homes of WIC participants. In Kentucky, eligible WIC recipients receive food instruments (FIs) worth $20 each summer to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables or fresh-cut herbs. Local WIC agencies issue FMNP FIs and provide nutrition education emphasizing the importance of including fruits and vegetables in the diet daily.

Where does WIC FMNP operate in Kentucky?

80 Farmers Markets in 72 counties across Kentucky accept WIC FMNP FIs.

Who Can Participate?  To be eligible you must:

  • Be a certified WIC recipient in the counties offering the WIC Farmers Market Nutritional Program. Click  Market Information for a list of Farmers Markets and their times of operation. Click here to apply for WIC beneifts. 
  • Be a woman who is pregnant, postpartum (up to 6 months) or breastfeeding (up to 1 year)
  • Be an infant (age 1 by Oct. 1)
  • Be a child up to age 5

What Foods Are Available?

A variety of fresh, nutritious, raw, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs may be purchased with WIC farmers market AFIs. Each state agency develops a list of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that can be purchased. 

Click  Eligible Food Items for a list of Kentucky’s approved foods for farmers market. 

How Does The Program Operate?

WIC Farmers Market Nutritional Program is administered through a federal/state partnership. The Nutrition Services Branch administers the program. 

WIC participants receive nutrition education at the time of their visit and farmers market FIs are issued, usually beginning in June of each year. FIs can be used through the end of October.  

Food Prescriptions

WIC provides a monthly prescription of nutritious foods tailored to supplement the dietary needs of participants. The foods are specifically chosen to provide high levels of protein, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C, nutrients that have been scientifically shown to be lacking or needed in extra amounts in the diets of the WIC population. These five nutrients plus calories and other essential nutrients provided by the WIC food prescription are critical for assuring good health, growth and development. Kentucky has developed a WIC Approved Food List that lists specific foods from the WIC food groups for purchase.

Program Management Section

The Program Management Section is responsible for:

  • Monitoring local health department compliance with WIC Program regulations.
  • Printing and distributing WIC materials for participant certification and outreach.
  • Coordination of EBT rollout and training.


Contact Information

Nancy Rowland
Program Investigative Officer II
Phone: (502) 564-3827, ext.  4331 

Tracy Kemper
Procedures Development Coordinator
Phone:  (502) 564-3827, ext. 4458

Kris Wilson
Field Representative
Central Kentucky Area
Phone: (502) 564-3827, ext. 4340

Misty Bowman Duvall
Field Representative
Western Kentucky Area
Phone: (270) 821-5483

Latrisha White
Field Representative
Southeastern Kentucky Area
Phone: (606) 598-5564, ext. 117

Misty Bashford (Knowles)
Field Representative
Eastern Kentucky Area
Phone: (606) 674-6396, ext. 24