Controversial food stamp legislation gets a hearing at the Wisconsin Capitol on Thursday. The Republican-sponsored bill would require participants in Wisconsin’s FoodShare program – commonly known as food stamps – to spend two-thirds of their monthly allotment on nutritional foods.
The measure from state Representative Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) would also strike items such as lobster from the list of foods that FoodShare recipients would be allowed to purchase.
“It is seeking to legislate the urban myths in our society,” charges state Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee). “It’s the fear that somebody on food stamps is buying steak and lobster and champagne, and it’s just not true.”
The Brooks measure (AB 177) would strike “crab, lobster, shrimp and any other shell fish” from the list of allowable foods. It’s one of three GOP public benefits-related bills scheduled for hearings before the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform. The others would require individuals applying for FoodShare, certain job training programs and unemployment benefits to be tested for drug use. The sponsors of all three have scheduled a press conference prior to the hearing, at 9:30 in the Capitol’s Assembly Parlor.
Goyke said the realities of FoodShare belie the image of people living it up on the taxpayer dime. “Forty-one percent of the people who receive food stamps are under the age of 18, and the next largest chunk are the elderly. And they’re not eating lobster, they’re struggling to get by.”
Similar legislation was proposed in the previous session of the Wisconsin legislature, but failed to advance to a vote in either the Assembly or Senate.
The Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force calls the proposed FoodShare changes “illegal, intrusive and undignified,” an assessment Goyke agreed with. “The drug testing component has constitutional and moral implications, about whether the government has the right to search somebody’s person and their bodily fluids in order to give them money for food,” he said.