Senate Eyes Ending Junk Food Benefits

MacIver News Service | January 15, 2014

The Wisconsin Senate Health Committee held a public hearing on Rep. Dean Kauffert’s (R-Neenah) Food Share bill on Wednesday, more than eight months after it passed in the Assembly.

The bill would create a pilot program where Food Share recipients would have to spend two-thirds of their benefits on pre-approved items. The goal is to reduce the amount of junk food bought with Food Shares.

“This FoodShare Reform legislation will make sure we continue to help those truly in need in our communities with basic food necessities, while at the same time reduce the abuse and misuse of this program,” Kaufert said in a press release. “The original intent of the food stamp program was to provide the basic necessities, not luxury items and this bill will move us back in that direction.”

At the hearing Kauffert said the pre-approved items would be the same as those on the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) Program. That should make adjusting the computer systems simpler than starting from scratch.

Hunger Task Force spoke against the bill arguing people, for the most part, use the program when they need it and then get off of it, limiting abuse. Also, the WIC item lists are not designed to meet the nutritional needs of the general public.

If the bill becomes law, the state will need to get permission from the federal government to make the changes. Kauffert said there are other states that have applied for similar waivers, but those have been rejected.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services would have two years to implement the pilot program if it becomes law.