The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program has provided nutrition education and nutritious food to pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and toddlers for many years in the United States. Since 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) has offered the program to eligible DoD personnel overseas.
What is the WIC Overseas program?
The WIC program is a supplemental nutrition program that serves to safeguard the health of eligible women, infants, and children (up to age five) who are at nutritional or medical risk. The program provides families with nutritious foods to supplement their diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to other health care and community resources. Offered stateside to service members and their families since 1972, WIC was expanded to locations across Asia and Europe in January 2001.
Results of nongovernmental studies have shown that WIC has become one of the nation's most successful nutrition intervention programs. Studies, reviews, and reports also show that the program is cost-effective in protecting or improving the health and nutritional status of its participants. Participation in WIC is associated with improved school readiness, higher birth weights, reductions in infant mortality, longer gestation, improved cognitive development, reduced iron deficiency anemia in children, and improved immunization rates. WIC Overseas program participants can also expect to receive:
- Tips on how to prepare balanced meals. Program staff members can teach you to create delicious and nutritious meals that are easy to prepare.
- Nutrition and health screenings. These health screenings could identify medical conditions early so that you can seek proper medical attention for your child.
- Referrals to other health agencies and community resources. Program staff members can help link you with additional health agency and community resources in overseas locations.
How do participants receive benefits?
If you are eligible to participate in the WIC Overseas program, you will receive redeemable food checks called "drafts," which you can exchange for specific foods at military commissaries and Navy Exchange markets (NEXMARTs) overseas. Unlike the stateside WIC program, WIC Overseas drafts are not accepted at other stores. Items on the WIC Overseas program's supplemental nutritious foods list include:
- iron-fortified cereal
- fresh eggs, milk, and cheese
- vitamin C-rich fruit/vegetable juices
- dried or canned beans or peas
- peanut butter
- vitamin A-rich vegetables
- canned or pouch tuna, mackerel, or salmon
- infant cereal and foods
Who is eligible for the WIC Overseas program?
To participate in the program, you must meet the following requirements:
- be an eligible service member, civilian employee, or DoD contractor living overseas, or a family members of an eligible participant
- your or a family member be certified as at "nutritional or medical risk"-examples of nutritional or medical risk include:
- a diagnosis of a nutrition-related medical condition such as anemia or diabetes
- classification as "underweight" or "overweight"
- diet that does not include a variety of food items in accordance with the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- a history of pregnancy complication
- a mother's poor pregnancy outcomes in the past
- meet the program's income guidelines (published by the USDA) in relation to your family size; or you may also be eligible if you have participated in the stateside WIC program
The target population of the WIC Overseas program consists of women who are pregnant or breastfeeding (until the infant's first birthday), non-breastfeeding women who are up to six months postpartum, infants from birth to one year old, and children who are one to five years old.
Possible concerns regarding enrolling in and using the program
Some concerns of potential WIC Overseas program participants may include:
- Cost. The WIC Overseas program is a DoD service available to qualified individuals. There is no cost to participants.
- Product substitutions. Product substitutions or "rain checks" are not allowed for products in the WIC Overseas program. This means that it is a good idea to keep your draft to use when all items are in stock. Drafts must be used within the date range listed on the checks. Expired drafts may not be used or replaced.
- Using a "proxy." A proxy is someone authorized to act on your behalf, who may shop for you or your family if you are deployed or have a medical condition that prevents you from shopping. However, you must get a Power of Attorney for this person and register him or her with your WIC Overseas office.
How do I get started?
If you are eligible for the WIC Overseas program, you can get started by either:
- Transfer from a stateside WIC program. If you are currently receiving benefits under the WIC program stateside, you can transfer from WIC to WIC Overseas without a recertification. Before leaving for your overseas duty station, ask your stateside WIC office for a Verification of Certification (VOC) document. A VOC is the documentation used when transferring stateside WIC benefits to the WIC Overseas program. At a minimum, the VOC should identify your name, your certification date, and the date your certification expires. The VOC will let you continue your current stateside certification period meaning that your participation will continue uninterrupted for the rest of your certification period.
- Submit a new application. If you have never participated in the WIC program, but want to know if you qualify, contact your local WIC Overseas office. A WIC Overseas counselor will screen your family for program eligibility and schedule an appointment with you if you qualify.
The WIC Overseas offices are located in Belgium, Central America, England, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey. To locate your nearest WIC Overseas office, visit the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS website or the TRICARE WIC Overseas website.