Wisconsin Bill Aims to Give Food Stamp Users Discounts on Healthy Foods

A new bill in Wisconsin would give food stamp users a discount on buying fresh produce and healthy grocery items – up to 50% off of produce. The Assembly will take up the bill on Tuesday along with another bill on property rights.

Assembly Bill 501 will give 2,000 families on the FoodShare program a discount on healthy food items for 10 months. Lawmakers hope that the bill will help food stamp users make healthier food choices. After 10 months, the state would review the cost of the incentives and whether it changed the eating habits of food stamp users.

If effective, the state may decide to expand the effort.

Republican Rep. Mike Rohrkaste sponsored the measure, which received bipartisan support. The measure unanimously passed the Assembly Committee on Public Benefits Reform last month.

“It’s literally a carrot approach – sorry for the pun there – but it’s a carrot approach to get them to buy healthier foods and that hopefully will lead to better healthcare outcomes,” said Rohrkaste.

GOP lawmakers in the past had made efforts to address how FoodShare funds are spent. Earlier bills were aimed at banning users from buying junk food using food stamps. Democrats argued that the measure was too narrow and would have prevented people from buying cranberries and some types of cheese.

The new bill aims to reward users for making healthier food choices instead of punishing them for buying unhealthy foods.

Taxpayers will foot some of the bill for the additional benefits given to FoodShare users. The bill would include $425,000 in taxpayer funds, but the Department of Health Services says it will need an additional $175,000.

Many health care organizations have come out in support of the bill, including the American Heart Association.

Those who support the measure say healthy food options are often more expensive in the grocery store, so the discount helps level the playing field and make healthy foods more accessible.