MADISON (WKOW) -- A Republican lawmaker says taxpayers should have some control over what Wisconsin Food Share recipients can buy for groceries.
Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) says he has heard numerous stories from grocery store clerks and convenience store managers over the years about people buying primarily junk food with their Food Share Quest Cards.
"You know, buying cases of soda, buying energy drinks, buying nachos and chips and that," said Rep. Kaufert.
Because of those stories, Rep. Kaufert wants to start a pilot program in Wisconsin in which people would have to spend the majority of their Food Share dollars on items that are deemed as "nutritionally sufficient."
"If their allotment is 300 bucks, you know, they're allowed to buy 30 dollars worth of what a lot of people would call junk food," said Rep. Kaufert. "The rest of it has to go toward more staple type foods."
But people who work to feed the local poor question whether such a measure is fair.
"Singling out and punishing people who aren't able to be completely and totally self-sufficient is not the way to get people to become more self-sufficient," argues Greta Hansen, Executive Director with Community Action Coalition, the group that organizes the Dane County Food Pantry Coalition.
Another big question for Hansen is what exactly will be considered nutritionally sufficient. Are cookies on that list? What about things like Ravioli or canned soup?
"I think any time you start restricting, there's always a concern about where is the line on this," said Hansen.
But Rep. Kaufert says he envisions stakeholders like Hansen working with Department of Health Services officials to come up with the guidelines. Rep. Kaufert points to Women, Infants and Children or WIC as an example of a program with strict guidelines on what people can and cannot buy. He scoffs at the mention of similarities to New York's ban on large sodas.
"If I want to go buy a 20 ounce soda, I'm doing that with my money and (Mayor) Michael Bloomberg shouldn't be able to tell me what I can and can't buy with my money," said Rep. Kaufert. "This is the taxpayers money."
But since the actual money for Food Share comes from the federal Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, the state will first have to request permission from Washington to start such a pilot program.
MADISON (WKOW) -- An abundance of examples cited by grocery store clerks and convenience store managers over the years has led Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) to introduce a bill aimed at limiting the amount of junk food people can buy with their Food Share benefit cards.
Assembly Bill 110 requires the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to conduct a pilot program that limits the use of Food Share benefits for foods and beverages that have "sufficient" nutritional value. It would be up to DHS to identify specific items that do not meet that sufficient nutritional value.
Rep. Kaufert says he knows people may compare his bill to the law set forth by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which outlawed the sale of oversized soft drinks. But Rep. Kaufert says his bill is different, because it doesn't impact what people want to buy with their own money, only what they can buy with taxpayer dollars.
Rep. Kaufert says a federal waiver may be needed to implement the pilot program.
Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have much more on this story on 27 News at 5 and 6 p.m.