Applying For Arkansas WIC
Arkansas WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is handled by the Arkansas Department of Health. They are responsible for determing the eligibility requirements, application process and are in charge of providing the benefits and services to WIC participants. The Arkansas WIC program aims to protect the health of low income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are at a nutritional risk. This is done through WIC approved nutritious foods you can purchase using paper vouchers/checks, or in some states your WIC EBT card.
Nutrition Risk Requirements
Anyone who applies for Arkansas WIC benefits must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist. They must determine whether the applicant is at a nutrition risk. In most cases, this can be done at a local WIC clinic at no cost to the applicant. However, if need be, this information can be obtained from another health professional such as the applicants doctor. Being a nutrition risk means that an individual has a medical-based or dietary-based condition.
For medical-based condition it could be anemia, underweight or a history of poor pregnacy outcome. For a dietary-based condition, this could include having a poor diet. At a minimum, the applicant's height and weight must be taken and bloodwork drawn up to check for anemia. An applicant must have at least one of the medical or dietary conditions listed on the state's list of WIC nutrition risk criteria.
Before applying for the AR WIC program, you can see if you are potentially eligible through the online Prescreening Tool. Please note, this tool is not considered an application. You still need to follow the application process for this state. It takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Arkansas WIC Eligibility
In order to be eligible for the Arkansas WIC program, a pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants and children under age five must:
Meet Income Guidelines
The guidelines are set at 185% of the poverty level. Anyone who is applying for Arkansas WIC must provide proof of income. Some examples they will accept are:
- Current check stubs
- W-2 forms
- Current income tax return
- Proof of eligibility for Medicaid, TEA, SNAP
- View the Arkansas WIC Income Guidelines
Have a Nutritional Need
Conditions such as anemia, certain medical disorders, weight and /or frequency of pregnancies are examples of the factors that are considered in a nutritional assessment. A nurse or other health professional performs this assessment at your local health unit.
Applicants must provide proof of residency in Arkansas. Examples of proof of residency can be:
- Current utility
- Cable or phone bill
- Current mortgage or rent receipt
- Proof of Arkansas Medicaid, TEA or SNAP
The Arkansas WIC program is available at the local health units and WIC clinics located throughout the state. You can apply for Arkansas WIC benefits in any county in the state. To get the application process started, you need to call one of these locations and schedule an appointment. At your appointment the WIC staff will check to see if you are eligible to receive Arkansas WIC.
Arkansas WIC Appointment
You will need to bring the following information to your appointment:
- ID for yourself and each child
- Proof you are an Arkansas resident
- Proof of income
- Bring any children you are applying for
If you still have questions, or need more information about applying for Arkansas WIC benefits, please contact your local county health unit, or call the State WIC Office at 501-661-2508 or toll free at 800-462-0599.
Arkansas eWIC System
Arkansas now uses the new eWIC System. This replaces paper checks and vouchers with a Arkansas WIC EBT (Electronic benefit transfer) Card. It allows you to purchase WIC approved foods at your local grocery store. When you are at checkout, you would hand over your eWIC smart card and the cashier will swipe it like a normal debit or credit card. Their POS system will then deduct the amount from your current WIC balance. Also, instead of visiting your local WIC clinic each month to get more paper checks or vouchers, your AK WIC EBT Card is automatically refilled electronically. All Arkansas WIC participants should now have this option, the state rolled out the eWIC system in July of 2018.
Will vendors accept checks and EBT cards?
With the transition to EBT, Vendors will accept both EBT cards and checks.
What happens if a participant loses their card?
If a participant loses their eWIC card, it will be placed on the Hot Card List and after a 3-day waiting period the Authorized Representative will be able to come in with ID to get a new one.
Will they be able to use their smart card at the Farmer's Market?
No. Participants will still receive Farmer's Market checks which can be used at specified vendors at local Farmer's Markets.
Who can change the PIN?
Only the Authorized Representative can change the PIN for an eWIC card.
Will participants still be able to use their checks that were already printed?
Yes, participants will still be able to use their checks until they run out and should have no reason to switch over to an EBT card early unless they have a food package change or the checks are stolen.
Research has shown that breast milk is the best food for the baby's first year of life. Breastfeeding provides many health, nutritional and economical benefits to mother and baby. Since a major goal of the Arkansas WIC program is to improve the nutritional status of infants, AR WIC encourages participating mothers to choose breastfeeding in the following ways:
- Mothers are provided with breastfeeding information and support
- Breastfeeding mothers are eligible to participate in Arkansas WIC longer than non-breastfeeding mothers
- Mothers who exclusively breastfeed receive a larger amount and variety of foods
- Mothers can receive a pump and other breastfeeding items if needed to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding
Length of WIC Participation
Arkansas WIC is considered a short-term program. A participate "graduates" at the end of one or more of their certification periods. A certification period is the length of time a AR WIC participate is eligible to receive benefits. Depending on the persons condition, either pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant or child, an eligible person usually receives benefits from 6 months to a year, at which time they are required to re-apply.
The WIC Waiting List
In some situations, WIC agencies may not have enough financial backing to serve everyone who qualifies for the Arkansas WIC program or those who call to apply. At this point, the WIC agencies must keep a list that is referred to as the "waiting list". It contains all of the individuals who want to apply for the Arkansas WIC program and are likely to be served. From there, the WIC agencies use a special system called a "Priority System". Based on conditions like most serious health conditions (anemia, underweight, pregnancy problems), this system will determine who will be served next to receive AR WIC benefits. There are 7 priorities used in this priority system, the details for each priority and how they are determined are listed below.
The following applicants with nutrition-related medical conditions such as anemia, underweight, overweight or pre-term birth:
- Pregnant Women
- Breastfeeding Women
Infants up to 6 months of age whose mothers participated in WIC or could have participated and had nutrition-related medical conditions.
Children with nutrition-related medical conditions.
The following applicants with dietary problems, for example a poor diet:
- Pregnant Women
- Breastfeeding Women
Children with dietary problems, for example a poor diet.
Postpartum (non-breastfeeding) women with nutrition related-medical conditions or dietary problems.
Current WIC participants who without providing the WIC supplemental foods could continue to have medical and/or dietary problems.
Please note, state agencies can decide to place homeless and migrant participants in Priorities 5 through 7. At the state agencies option, postpartum women may be placed in Priorities 3 through 5. Any priority can be subdivided into subcategories of risk, using factors such as income or age.
WIC Participants who are Moving
If you are receiving Arkansas WIC benefits and are moving from one area or state to another, then you will be placed at the top of a waiting list when you move and are also served first when the WIC agency can serve more individuals. While moving, you can still continue to receive your benefits until your certification period expires as long as there is proof that you are receiving WIC benefits in another area or state. Before you move, you need to contact your local WIC clinic and let them know.
In most cases the staff will give you a special card, Verification of Certification Card (VOC), which will prove that you are receiving WIC benefits. After you do move, you will then need to call the WIC clinic in your new area to schedule an appointment. When attending your appointment, make sure to take the VOC card that was given to you to show proof that you were participating in the AR WIC program.
If you still have questions or issues about the program, then you can contact your local Arkansas WIC program that manages these benefits and services.