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Wis. FoodShare program may see changes

MADISON, Wis. - Some big changes could be coming to the FoodShare Wisconsin program. Republican-backed Assembly Bill 110 would require those getting help paying for food to spend at least two-thirds of monthly benefits on items such as milk, bread and vegetables. The bill passed Tuesday 68-26 in the Assembly and will now go to the Senate.

Middleton Outreach Ministry works closely with families struggling to make ends meet. Executive Director Al Ripp said the legislation should come down to education, not limiting choices.

Every month, more than 3,000 Western Dane County families turn to Middleton Outreach Ministry for help. Ripp said many of its clients use the FoodShare Wisconsin program and are looking for healthier items.

"We do see a demand for those types of products from our clients as they come through the doors looking for those types of products so we do try and supply that," Ripp said.

In March, about 850,000 individuals used the FoodShare Wisconsin program. A new bill would require those using food stamps to make healthier choices. The Wisconsin State Association of Food Banks opposes Assembly Bill 110, saying the focus should be on education and healthy incentives. In a statement, Michelle Kramer, a spokesperson from Second Harvest, said the bill lacks specifics on what is defined as a healthy food, and there's no evidence to support a link between FoodShare and poor eating habits.

The Freshmobile rolls through communities six days a week. Manager Paul Borowski said it serves about 150 customers each week from all walks of life.

"We're located in places where people don't really have access to a grocery store," said Borowski.

The Freshmobile's 34-foot trailer is stocked full of fresh produce and pantry staples. Borowski says part of their mission is giving more communities access to these foods.

"I don't think any particular ethnic group, cultural group or income group has the monopoly on bad eating habits," said Borowski. MOM's executive director said it's seeing a 20 percent increase in people needing their food pantry this year. The organization supports better education about food.

"We really encourage them to make those choices themselves," Ripp said.

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