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Lawmakers take up bills to provide food stamp recipients with healthy options

The Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform had a public hearing for two bills aimed to provide food stamp recipients with healthier food.

Image By: Jon Yoon

A state Assembly committee met Tuesday for a hearing on two bills that emphasize a greater focus on health-orientated consumables for food stamp recipients and standardizes the quality of nutrition that must be covered for the use of food stamps.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform held a public hearing on the proposed bills. One provides a 50 percent discount towards healthy foods for FoodShare members and the other initiates a pilot program that places restrictions on certain foods deemed insufficiently nutritional by the Department of Health Services.

FoodShare Wisconsin — the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, the successor to the Food Stamp program — aims to provide low-income families with access to health education and healthy foods.

The proposals incentivize food stamp recipients toward a more nutritional lifestyle and studies the effects of the programs in altering consumption and health patterns.

Public reception of the bills was mixed: Various organizations support the discounted rate yet denounce attempts to control consumer habits based on assumed behaviors. Opponents reprimand it, citing similar programs that failed to affect dietary trends. Others noted the presumable turbulence caused by the food corporations lobbying for their products to meet standards.

The DHS further added to the fray, announcing that the department could not assimilate the costs associated with the pilot program and that federal monetary support would be unlikely. In the proposals, the DHS would be responsible for the transaction and completion of the implemented programs.

A vote on the two bills has yet to be scheduled as it passes through its initial hearings.

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