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"Junk food" Food-share bill scheduled for vote

MADISON (WSAU-Wheeler News)  The Wisconsin Assembly is scheduled to vote today on a bill aimed at reducing the amount of junk food bought by those on food stamps. Neenah Republican Dean Kaufert says taxpayers provide the Food-Share benefits, and the government should decide what those benefits should be used for.

Kaufert says everybody seems to have a story about seeing food stamp users load up on soda-and-chips at the grocery store. A committee recently softened his bill by making Food-Share recipients spend two-thirds of their benefits on healthy foods approved by the state. There would also have to be a study of what the change would cost grocery stores and their suppliers.

Even if the state approves Kaufert’s bill, the federal government would have the final say, since it covers most of the costs of the billion-dollar Food-Share program. Kaufert admits that Washington has said no to similar requests from other states – but he says it’s the principle of the thing.

Food makers, grocers, and food banks have all lined up against the bill, saying it would create higher costs for them and for taxpayers. The state Health Services Department, which operates the Food-Share program, is not taking a stand on the measure. Agency spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley says there have been no studies on the types of groceries bought with Food-Share benefits.