Bill would restrict food stamps to healthy fare

2013-03-18T00:00:00Z 2013-03-18T06:11:07Z Bill would restrict food stamps to healthy fareThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

MADISON — A Wisconsin state lawmaker wants food stamp users to eat healthier — whether they want to or not.

Rep. Dean Kaufert, a Republican from Neenah, would cut the use of food stamps on junk food. In other words, for people in FoodShare, the state’s nutrition assistance program, it’s out with the Cheetos, Coca-Cola and Suzy Qs and in with the leafy produce.

“The system is being abused,” Kaufert said. “Some people are not spending their benefits wisely.”

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It’s an idea that’s been tried before with no success. States aren’t allowed to set their own definitions of what’s “healthy,” or “junk,” and Kaufert’s bill doesn’t actually name any products or food groups. The state also can’t change what FoodShare covers without a waiver from the federal government.

FoodShare uses federal money to help individuals and families buy almost any food they need other than alcohol, cigarettes, non-food items and restaurant meals. Eligible recipients include people of all ages who are employed but have low incomes, are living on small or fixed incomes, have lost their jobs, or have disabilities and can’t work.

Income eligibility is determined by federal poverty guidelines. In Wisconsin, a family of four that makes $3,676 or less a month can receive up to $668 in monthly aid. About 15 percent of Wisconsin’s population, or 850,000 people, got such benefits in January. Nearly half of them were children.

The food stamp program has come in for criticism before. Last year, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau reported incidents of recipients selling state-issued benefit cards to others and applying for replacements. Officials also found prisoners, fugitives and parole violators illegally collecting benefits, costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Gov. Scott Walker has also looked for ways to reform the program. Under his latest workforce development plan, able-bodied adults without dependent children must have a job before they can collect more than very limited benefits.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie declined to comment on the bill, saying only that the governor would review it should it pass.

Fraud isn’t the focus of Kaufer’s brief bill. It essentially would require the Department of Human Services to develop a pilot program “that limits the use of FoodShare benefits to staple foods and beverages that have nutritional value.”

Cassandra Vanderwall, public policy coordinator for the Madison Dietetic Association and a registered dietitian, said restrictions on food stamp users’ food purchases are unfair. She said many don’t have access to grocery stores with a wide variety of food choices, and they can’t afford many foods that might be considered healthy. Food cost often determines what people buy, she said.

Vanderwall said the state should invest more in nutrition education.

Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the Food Research and Action Center, a nonprofit anti-hunger organization, said so many food products come onto the market each year that it’s challenging for governments to classify and update which foods are healthy.

Vollinger said states should instead use incentives to encourage healthy eating. She cited the success of a Massachusetts program where food stamp users earned 30 cents on every food-aid dollar when purchasing certain fruits and vegetables.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(28) Comments

  1. Pi
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    Pi - March 18, 2013 8:08 pm
    It seems ironic that people can be given something (food stamps) for nothing and yet any stipulations placed on the recipients are perceived as unfair. Based on the income restrictions it would seem a lot of food stamp recipients are probably able to meet basic nutrition requirements even before they use their food stamps. Thus it doesn't seem like a ridiculous idea to me to require that at least some of the monthly food stamp allotment be used for foods that have good nutritional value. The problem is there is essentially no way to police that. One thing that could and maybe should be done however is that in order to receive food stamps people would have to go through mandatory education on nutrition on a regular basis. This would seem to be a win-win for all involved.
  2. RemoteEmployee
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    RemoteEmployee - March 18, 2013 6:47 pm
    Hi Cassandra -

    You read my mind. My thoughts exactly. Thank you!
  3. realitycheck
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    realitycheck - March 18, 2013 6:46 pm
    We just cannot win with the liberals. Don't you think this has something to do with the fact that most of us have witnessed people buying luxuries and junk food with stamps and buying smokes, alcohol and lottery with cash? Goes back to the liberal comment "we cant expect people to work for food." The libs comment on here like it is recipients right to do as they choose with taxpayer money. Truly shameful.
  4. David Lee
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    David Lee - March 18, 2013 6:29 pm
    In this case, your probably correct.
  5. KJ
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    KJ - March 18, 2013 5:42 pm
    I agree Badboy, who is going to determine what is acceptable or not? People should have the ability to chose the food they wish to eat, as long as they choose food with their food stamps. The responsible ones will.
  6. KJ
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    KJ - March 18, 2013 5:40 pm
    Frangel, You crack me up...
    So, what is wrong with requiring that food stamp recipients to do a drug test? They are getting federal funds, your funds. I don;t begrudge those who are truly in need, just those who are milking the system.
  7. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - March 18, 2013 5:26 pm
    If you care about FACTS you will do a little research and find that welfare recipients are FAR LESS LIKELY to be drug users than the general population. In Florida when they implemented drug testing they found that the process was far more expensive than the money saved by denying a few people their benefits. That's just one example, but the same has been found in other situations. Also, you choose to be subjected to drug testing. If you don't like it, get another job.
  8. Cassandra
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    Cassandra - March 18, 2013 5:22 pm
    And how does Rep. Kaufert feel about the NYC soda ban? Seems like more "big government" interference in peoples' lives.
    The bigger question though is whether Rep. Kaufert's bill will mandate that healthy food shops be opened in poor neighborhoods where people don't have access to cars or decent public transportation in order to get to the store.
  9. badboy
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    badboy - March 18, 2013 3:27 pm
    So who is going to make the rules on good or bad food? Are hot dogs bad? What about ground beef? Too much fat? Cheese - bad for your cholesterol? Milk? Only skim is allowed? No white bread? Maybe they should only be allowed to buy organic food with their food stamps? Bottled water is healthy but not a necessity. Chicken nuggets? Tater tots? Frozen diners? Frozen pizzas? Are those healthy or non-healthy? I don't see how this could be implemented very easily. If they are only allowed to buy "health" food their grocery bill would probably double.
    And drug testing has proven to cost more money to run tests than the savings from catching the "users". But it does make the rest of us feel superior....
  10. hammer
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    hammer - March 18, 2013 3:00 pm
    Why do you ALWAYS have more questions than answers. Everything ends in a question mark?
  11. hammer
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    hammer - March 18, 2013 2:57 pm
    Fine, as long as you are willing to drug test CEO's, bankers, and the like ... you know, the ones who accept corporate welfare. Or is there a difference?
  12. hammer
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    hammer - March 18, 2013 2:54 pm
    Celery has never passed the lips of Rush Limbaugh.
  13. Frangel45
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    Frangel45 - March 18, 2013 1:31 pm
    KJ - shame on you and Buggs too! Other 'governors'-states have done all this and they have had to eat crow. Why do some of you think you are so much better than everyone else. The drug testing in Florida really put 'ole Scott in his place. And you are the same idiots who want less government - obviously less government for yourself only and more policing for everyone else - you are so arrogant and shameless!
  14. bigtimeMark
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    bigtimeMark - March 18, 2013 12:39 pm
    While there are some cases of abuse of the food stamp program, telling people what type of food they can buy is going too far. The grocery stores in some of the communities do not carry a large range of healthy food and the healthier food in some cases may be more expensive. I agree with Ellen Vollinger that states should instead use incentives to encourage healthy eating instead of trying to restrict the type of food purchases made. The real effort should be placed in the tackling of fraud and abuse cases in the food stamp program.

  15. pheasant
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    pheasant - March 18, 2013 12:12 pm
    They cannot even control Foods Stamps as currency out there?
  16. broadview
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    broadview - March 18, 2013 12:09 pm
    Maybe wisconsin is trying not to become a welfare state for other states to come here
  17. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - March 18, 2013 11:51 am
    This is obviously a conspiracy, a black operation against the restoration of the Twinkie. For shame.
  18. FUBAR
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    FUBAR - March 18, 2013 11:12 am
    Are you people really equating Food Stamps to drug use? What is wrong with you? Have we lost our mind in this country?
    But I digress...I can see this from both sides. My view, I want LESS Gov. Interference, regulations and Nannying. I don't believe they should be telling people what they can and cannot eat. The other side, I can see that it IS a Gov. program and almost always they come with some sort of regulation. I also see that most people on Food Stamps are also on Badger care and healthier eating helps with lower healthcare costs for the taxpayers. But, where do the regulations end? Years from now they will put more regulations on top of these new ones. But, ask yourself this. I know that food stamps are a Gov. program but so is Social Security and disability. Should they be regulated on what they spend their money on? Should people on SS be regulated from going to the casino or from buying Cheetos? If you say NO, than you have your answer to the Food Stamp regulation
  19. KJ
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    KJ - March 18, 2013 10:53 am
    This bill does not go far enough. The recipients of food stamps should also be subjected to drug testing. We, who do have jobs are subjected, why not those who are accepting federal funding also be subjected?
  20. Richy
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    Richy - March 18, 2013 10:31 am
    Really why don't we just take away their food all together and be rid of them. You people hate because another is eating Cheetos and not what you would like them to eat. When you eat your body gets nutrition from whatever you eat. Potato chips are made from potatoes and it all goes through your system quickly unless you eat nothing but cheeze. So what i suggest is we put them on nothing but cheeze so we all get more bang for our buck. Just pathetic nonsense. and I work 56 hrs a week and never been on food stamps but don't really care what they eat because they are people not animals. I will be glad when I am dead so I can rest and finally not have to see and listen to all the retards in this world.
  21. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - March 18, 2013 10:13 am
    You non-thinkers complain if they buy cupcakes, you complain if they buy steak. Maybe you can find a way to make the food YOU think they deserve get marked clearly with with "PPF" - poor people's food? And how much more tax money is going to pay for the monitoring of what they buy? Why not go all they way and tell they they can't buy a shirt at the mall with welfare money, because they have to shop at Salvation Army only? Meanwhile you don't raise a peep when trillions of YOUR TAXES go down two rat-holes of ten years wars.
  22. Buggs Raplin
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    Buggs Raplin - March 18, 2013 9:22 am
    I'm all for this. We've got to deal with obesity. As Jefferson Paine says, it's a threat to our national security. And everybody knows that most people on food stamps are fatties cause they just sit around all day watching soap operas and stuffing their faces with junk food. I say limit them to celery. Nothing else. Celery. And if the fatties cheat, then our blessed president should take them out with his drones. After all, as the wise Jefferson Paine says, obesity is a national security threat. Fat people are endangering your safety and our freedoms.
  23. David Lee
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    David Lee - March 18, 2013 9:10 am
    Instead of doing the usual for republicans why not go to the feds, tell them you want to propose a state law that would encourage healthy eating by food stamp recipients and would like their assistance in forming the legislation. Instead they will pass a bill, and scooter will sign it, and it will, as usual, end up getting thrown out by the courts. Idiots.
  24. Balancr
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    Balancr - March 18, 2013 8:50 am
    Typical republican. 1% of food stamp recipients abuse the system. 2% of congress members have been guilty of fraud/ abuse. I think they should look in house, 1st.
  25. Mom4
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    Mom4 - March 18, 2013 8:50 am
    It's about time. They should also require mandatory drug testing before those that get assistance receive a cent of tax payer money. We are so concerned about childhood and adult obesity, this would be a great way to start getting junk food out of homes, and families eating healthier.
  26. scomls
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    scomls - March 18, 2013 7:59 am
    How about a bill to restrict foodstamps to people who actually NEED and DESERVE them ? Far too many people collecting them because they are too lazy to get off the couch and find a job. There should also be a drug test to be eligible.
  27. lookout
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    lookout - March 18, 2013 6:54 am
    Like I say before, Wisconsin has turned into a police state. People really need to know a lot more about the people we elect. If they dance around the questions even once, no one should ever vote for them. When a candidate answers the question by side stepping it, they have something to hide people. So quit voting to for these A holes
  28. Seriously Now
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    Seriously Now - March 18, 2013 6:19 am
    So, where are the complaints about the "nanny state?" Oh, let me guess...these are poor people, and "those" people, so it isn't the same as when the nanny state tries to regulate you, right? Oh, that's right, it's tax money, so the rules don't apply, right? Oh that's right, you make the rules based on stupidity right, Dean? Oh yeah, somebody will no doubt toss in the folks who sell their cards to buy cigarettes, which has nothing to do this this discussion, but it so cool to make nasty remarks abut "those" people, right?
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