Better Nutrition for Mothers and Children While Receiving Food Stamps in California


Individuals enrolled in the California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) often participate in other California assistance programs like Medi-Cal. California aims to promote healthy growth and development for mothers and children. Pregnant women receive several resources to prepare for the new baby and stay healthy during pregnancy. Enrollment in one aid program does not disqualify mothers and children from receiving benefits in other programs. CalFresh benefits are extended to eligible low-income families and are available until the household no longer meets the program’s eligibility requirements. The California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is extended to eligible pregnant women and often ends when the child reaches the age of five and starts kindergarten. Occasionally, eligibility requirements for benefits may change and WIC may end for the child before his or her fifth birthday.To learn more about California nutrition programs read through the following sections:

  • California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
  • CalFresh in California
  • Nutrition Education in California
California Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

WIC is a nutrition assistance program for low-income pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding mothers and families with children under the age of five. WIC offers referral to healthcare services and nutritional education. Qualifying applicants will be issued checks for nutritious foods that can be used at local participating grocery stores. The WIC program is federally funded, however Congress only allocates a certain amount of funds to the program annually, and not everyone who meets eligibility requirements can receive benefits. Women who enroll in the WIC program typically have longer pregnancies and often seek prenatal care earlier in the pregnancy. Women receiving WIC benefits also consume healthier diets, which has led to fewer cases of babies being born with low birth weight in California. Benefit checks are distributed monthly, and nutritional education is also offered to women who are enrolled in the program. The benefit checks are only valid for 30 days so the funds must be used before the expiration date. Unlike food stamps, WIC checks are issued for specific foods that are preselected by the USDA. Foods covered by WIC benefits include: juice, milk, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, beans, cereal, and infant formula. Many working families believe that their eligibility can be denied due to employment status. However, California encourages low-wage working families to participate in the WIC program to help improve nutritional intake in the family. Low-wage earning families cannot always purchase enough healthy foods or access preventative care. WIC aims to help all women and children receive nutritional assistance to promote healthy growth and development.

CalFresh in California

CalFresh is a food stamp program in California that helps low-income households pay for monthly food expenses. Families can be enrolled in both WIC and CalFresh programs. Both programs promote healthy eating habits and nutritious meals. While WIC has a designated list of foods to that beneficiaries are allowed purchase, CalFresh does not. Eligibility for CalFresh is based on household income and other household factors. Beneficiaries should attend nutritional education classes to learn how to shop for and prepare nutritious meals. CalFresh benefits are distributed on a card as opposed to WIC checks. Neither benefit program can be used to buy paper products or alcoholic beverages.

Nutrition Education in California

WIC offers classes on healthy eating habits for women enrolled in the program. Nutrition education classes are free for participants in the program. During the nutrition class women, will learn more about the WIC program and how to participate. Participants will meet with a nutrition assistant in order to determine eligibility and receive their first WIC check. Pregnant women will also receive assistance on how to properly take care of themselves and their unborn baby. Breastfeeding education is also provided. Once the baby is born, women in the WIC program have an opportunity to attend an individual appointment where newborn nutrition is discussed and the baby is enrolled in the WIC program. As the child gets older nutritional needs will change and WIC enrollment will need to be renewed. Changing nutritional needs can be discussed during individual appointments with a nutrition assistant. Toddlers and older children will transition to solid foods and parents will need to be cautious about unhealthy snacks and foods. By age five, children will be ready to start school and are no longer eligible for WIC benefits. During the final appointment, nutrition assistants will help inform parents about the health requirements for kindergarten, school food programs and packing a healthy lunch and snacks.