Foodshare Myths

By the GWAAR Legal Services Team (for reprint)

FoodShare Wisconsin was created to help stop hunger and to improve nutrition and health. FoodShare helps people with limited money buy the food they need for good health. Each month, people across Wisconsin get help from FoodShare. They are people of all ages who have a job but have low incomes, are living on small or fixed income, have lost their job, and are retired or disabled and not able to work.
FoodShare policies are frequently talked about in the news. The purpose of this article is to provide facts about some common misconceptions.

Myth: If I take FoodShare, I’m taking money away from hungry families and children.
Fact: FoodShare is underutilized by many eligible people in Wisconsin. This means that there are far more people who are eligible for FoodShare than those who use it. Currently, only 30% of people over age 60 who are FoodShare eligible take it. Even if every single person over age 60 eligible for FoodShare took the maximum benefit, there would still be money left over for all families with children who are also eligible.

Myth: FoodShare is a welfare program.
Fact: FoodShare is actually a federal entitlement program, which means anyone who is eligible can receive the benefits. It is not cash assistance, and the amount you receive is based on your household size and income.

Myth: Everyone will know I’m on FoodShare.
Fact: If you receive FoodShare benefits, you will receive a plastic card called an “EBT” or “Quest” card that is swiped at any store with a credit card/debit card reader. The FoodShare program no longer uses paper stamps, which were previously called “food stamps.”

Myth: The government can tell me what to eat if I’m on FoodShare.
Fact: There are some rules on what can and cannot be purchased with a FoodShare card. For example, you cannot buy pet food, medications or vitamins, toiletries, paper products, cleaning supplies, alcohol or tobacco. You cannot buy already prepared hot food to be consumed in the store, but if it’s been chilled you can use your FoodShare card. Other than those restrictions, FoodShare benefits can be used for all other food products. FoodShare benefits can also be used at participating Famers’ Markets, and to buy seeds to grow your own food.

Myth: Wisconsin is in so much debt, I don’t want to add to it by taking FoodShare.
Fact: FoodShare benefits are federal benefits. Wisconsin only pays for the administration of the program. The actual money you receive on your FoodShare card is federal money that has been distributed to each state to use for eligible participants. The U.S.D.A. estimates that every $5 spent in FoodShare generates $9 in local economic activity.

Myth: If I take FoodShare, I have to try to go back to work.
Fact: The current FoodShare work requirements only apply to people age 18-49. If you are 50 or older, there is no requirement to apply for jobs to receive FoodShare benefits.

Myth: I’ll get tested for drugs if I take FoodShare.
Fact: Even though there has been a lot of talk about drug testing for FoodShare recipients, it is not a law yet. Even if it were to be enacted into law, the purpose behind the drug testing is to help younger adults get back into the workforce. Therefore, it is unlikely it would be applied to people age 50 and over.
The purpose of FoodShare is to make sure the people of Wisconsin are healthy, which means they have access to enough food. You may only need an extra $15 per month, but that amount may keep you from making tough decisions. You can also collect monthly benefits on your card up to one year, so some people make one trip per year to stock up on nonperishable foods. If you’d like to learn more about FoodShare for you or someone else, contact your ADRC.

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