RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Proposed changes in the Wisconsin FoodShare Program are moving through the state legislature in Madison.
A bill that passed in the Assembly on Tuesday would restrict use of the FoodShare card for junk food.
The bill, which passed the Assembly, on a 68-26 vote. The idea drew a mixed reaction at the River Falls Community Food Pantry from volunteers and clients.
"I really do not know what the restrictions are going to be," said Rick Pechacek, Director of the Food Pantry. "But I believe if they did restrict what they can get from that program, I would see a dramatic increase here because people need food."
Pechacek said, in 2005, when he arrived at the Food Pantry, they had 105 visits per month and distributed 6,000 pounds of food. In 2012, he said there were 452 visits per month and 33,000 pounds of food distributed.
Jacqueline Walker, of River Falls, was more enthusiastic about the idea of stopping the use of the FoodShare cards for junk food.
"I do not think that is such a bad thing," she said. "I really do not because there is a reason why all of our children are obese and a lot of us adults, too."
Walker has used the FoodShare program and pays a monthly visit to the River Falls Community Food Pantry. She noted that the pantry offers clients paper products like tissue and paper towels, while the FoodShare care cannot be used for such items.
The bill must now be considered by the Wisconsin Senate. If passed there, it would go to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.
There is a question about whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture which largely funds the FoodShare program would allow the restrictions. The Department said "no" to other state's attempts to impose such restrictions, including Minnesota in 2004.
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