What’s the Difference Between SNAP and WIC? — How to Apply

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) stock photo
hapabapa / iStock.com

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are both federally funded health and nutrition programs. Both programs help low-income families and their children, but are discrete entities.

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SNAP delivers a monthly preloaded EBT (electronic benefits) card to recipients, and this card is used to buy food for you or your family. When you see the EBT option at the grocery store, this signals that the store is participating in the SNAP benefits program. A predetermined amount is loaded onto your debit card based on your overall household income for this purpose. 

WIC, on the other hand, does not provide a discretionary amount to buy food items. Through the WIC program, you can get nutritional education, breastfeeding support and referrals, and nutritious foods based on your particular stage of motherhood. This can include being pregnant, breastfeeding, or being a postpartum woman responsible for an infant or child. 

WIC foods are pre-determined, meaning that they are chosen based on nutritional values and USDA standards. WIC recipients are given a specific WIC card, which is then swiped the same way a debit or credit card is, to purchase items from this list only.

Make Your Money Work for You

A WIC EBT card is an electronic system that replaces paper vouchers with a card for food benefit issuance and redemption at authorized WIC grocery stores. This means that although WIC cards are similar to EBT cards, you cannot use them everywhere. EBT cards can be used anywhere that accepts debit or credit cards as a means of payment.  WIC EBT cards though, cannot.  

If you are eligible for SNAP benefits, it is likely your household will be eligible for WIC benefits as well. 

Eligibility Requirements for SNAP, WIC

To attain SNAP benefits, you need to apply in the state where you currently reside — and meet meet certain bank balance limits. Households with elderly or disabled household members may be allowed to have a higher bank balance limit.

For the WIC program, you will also need to apply in the state you currently live, but will also need to fall under one of the following categories:

  • Pregnant.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Postpartum.
  • Have a child under the age of five.

Learn: Don’t Qualify for SNAP? The Commodity Supplemental Food Program Could Help Seniors Get Food
Explore: SNAP Benefits: Find Your State’s Payment Schedule For The Remainder Of The Year

How To Apply for SNAP, WIC

Make Your Money Work for You

Both the SNAP program and the WIC program are managed by individual states. Each state has their own application process, and some states even offer online applications. Other states require you to apply in person or by regular mail. 

To apply for SNAP, you will need to find your state’s Food and Nutrition Service’s office via the state locator map, then contact your state agency.

To apply for WIC, find your state program’s contact information or website from the WIC Directory.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 

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