Ask NCFY: Nutrition Programs Can Help Homeless Youth and Young Moms

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Photograph of a young mother holding her baby.

Q: I’ve heard of WIC and some other nutrition programs for low-income mothers. What are they, and can young people in my program benefit?

A: WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children and is a federal program designed to provide food to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women; infants; and children up to age five. The program provides a combination of nutritious foods, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care -- all at no charge. The program is available in all 50 States and 34 Indian Tribal Organizations. Most young women and their children living in maternity group homes will be eligible to participate in the WIC program. Learn more about how to apply.

Typically, WIC participants receive checks or vouchers to purchase specific foods each month, like infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried and canned beans, peas, and canned fish. Soy-based beverages, tofu, fruits and vegetables, baby foods, whole-wheat bread, and other whole-grain options were recently added to better meet the nutritional needs of WIC participants. Also, breastfeeding mothers may receive breast pumps and other aides to help support the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.

Another nutrition program homeless youth may be able to benefit from is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides low-income and homeless youth with coupons that can be used like cash at most grocery stores to ensure access to a healthy diet. A new SNAP Retailer Locator finds stores that welcome SNAP benefits.

Local SNAP offices can provide information about eligibility, and most states also have a toll-free information number. Learn more about SNAP. 

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