Wisconsin News

Less junk, more healthy options proposed for Food Share

MADISON, Wis. - A Wisconsin lawmaker wants those on food assistance to give up junk food for some healthier options.

State Rep. Dean Kaufert's (R-Neenah) proposal would not completely restrict the purchase of unhealthy foods. However, it would set up some guidelines for those on food assistance.

"What really irritates people is when they're at at the grocery store or convenience store and they're seeing someone use their EBT card foolishly," said Kaufert.

Kaufert's plan would require Wisconsin to request a waiver from the federal government so it can establish it's own guidelines for Food Share, the main food assistance program in the state. Kaufert does not believe any waivers have ever been granted.

"When you are using your own money, I don't care what you do with it. When you are using the taxpayers' (money), I think the taxpayer has the right to try to get you to make good buying decisions," he said.


Congress has already looked at this issue several times. According to a USDA study, however, it would take too much time and money to set up a system designating which foods count as healthy.

Experts say there's no guarantee it would even lead to people eating better.

"It's possible they'll purchase the items that are on the 'healthy' list with their Food Share and then use their own money for the other (items). That's probably what the result would be," said Lorie Graff, the economic support manager in La Crosse County.

Graff says there are about 6,000 families in La Crosse County alone that rely on monthly assistance to buy their groceries. She does not believe there are widespread problems of people abusing the system.

"It's really a needed program. The average family in La Crosse County has seen just how high the grocery bills are," said Graff.

La Crosse County is already encouraging people to purchase healthier foods. Those on Food Share are offered nutritional education classes.

The county is also trying to set up a system so people can use their assistance at area farmers markets.

It's unclear whether Wisconsin could even receive a waiver to go its own course. If it does, however, there will be big changes for thousands of people when they go shopping at the supermarket.

Kaufert tells News 8 he already has more than 20 co-sponsors on the bill and is hoping to introduce the legislation soon.

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