Efforts continue at the Capitol to require FoodShare recipients to buy healthier food.
Members of a state Senate committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill from state Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah), which would require anyone receiving FoodShare benefits to spend at least two-thirds of that money on healthy foods. Kaufert says he thinks the requirement “will help them make better choices, make better decisions about what they’re putting in their cupboards” and “help them lead a healthier lifestyle.”
AUDIO: Rep. Dean Kaufert (:17)
The list of foods that are considered healthy under the bill would be based largely on those allowed under the WIC program, which provides nutrition assistance for pregnant women and newborns. Additional items excluded from WIC, such as meat and cheese, would also be included.
The proposal is drawing criticism from advocates for the poor, who argue it unfairly blames obesity rates on low-income residents. During Wednesday’s hearing, Matt Stienstra with the Hunger Task Force argued that the list of approved “healthy foods” fails to account for the cultural food preferences of different groups or the very real limitations many low-income households face when trying to find and purchase healthy foods. Stienstra says many rural and urban residents have limited access to stores that sell fresh produce, which is also often significantly marked up in price in “food deserts.”
The FoodShare program is federally funded, so the state would have to seek a waiver to make any changes in how it administers the program. Other states have made similar requests in the past, which have been turned down.
The bill passed the state Assembly last spring with bipartisan support.