October 24, 2014

Lawmaker calls for FoodShare reforms

A state lawmaker wants to encourage those enrolled in Wisconsin’s Food Share program to eat healthier.

State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) says he’s concerned by stories about FoodShare recipients loading up shopping carts with food that’s either expensive or that has low nutritional value. He says lawmakers get letters and hear stories from people who say that while they’re standing in line to buy “ground beef with cash, the people in front of them are buying tenderloins with food stamps.”

The Neenah Republican says it’s not just about the price of the food though. He’s also raising concerns about using food assistance dollars to buy junk food, such as soda and chips. Kaufert says he doesn’t want to tell people what to buy, but it is taxpayer money funding the program and it should be used to “get the most bang for the buck.”

Kaufert is proposing a bill that would direct the Department of Health Services to create a pilot program aimed at helping those receiving FoodShare benefits make healthier decisions. He says that could include limiting the money spent on junk food or offering incentives for people who make smarter decisions about their purchasing habits.

The proposal would not change eligibility requirements for FoodShare benefits or the amount of money offered through the program.

The change would require a federal waiver, but the Kaufert says that offers the state an opportunity to become a national model for encouraging healthier eating.