Series: Food Security And Assistance In Wisconsin

About one in nine Wisconsin households faces food insecurity — a lack of reliable access to safe, affordable and culturally relevant food that supports an active, healthy lifestyle. Those who have trouble keeping their refrigerators and pantries stocked include people who are unemployed and others who are working but aren’t able to find enough hours or wages, as well as many who are children and senior citizens. A variety of safety nets — from public-assistance programs to non-profit and religious food banks — struggle to keep up with demand. Fluctuations in the broader economy add uncertainties for the needy, as do changing state and federal aid policies. At the same time, innovative projects seek to improve food security, including efforts to directly connect hungry Wisconsinites with fresh food through growers and farmers' markets.
 
As work-related eligibility rules for Wisconsin's food stamp program expand, it remains unclear to what extent the requirements already in place are having their intended effect.
Metcalfe Park Legacy Garden in Milwaukee has transformed several vacant lots into a vibrant place for community gatherings and education.
On a recent hot and sunny afternoon on the north side of Milwaukee, about half a dozen Young Farmers are hard at work in their garden.
Beginning in 2019, programs like Just Bakery will increasingly be in demand as parents of children ages 6 and above in Wisconsin will be added to the list of able-bodied recipients ages 18 through 49 required to train for a job or work to earn FoodShare benefits.
The Trump administration has looked at reducing FoodShare benefits, suggesting that recipients could receive non-perishable food boxes instead of food stamps.
Wisconsin's new round of food stamp rules tightening work requirements also comes as a state jobs program aimed at FoodShare beneficiaries shows mixed results.
Throughout the growing season, many Wisconsinites stop by farmers' markets to grab a bite to eat, chat with neighbors and, of course, purchase fresh produce and other foods. But this type of shopping can be cost prohibitive for people who have lower or fixed incomes.
With the release of Gov. Scott Walker's 2017-19 budget proposal, Wisconsin is again debating how distribution of food stamps should work.
A state budget proposal would extend the requirement that people work 80 hours a month to receive food stamps to parents of school-aged children. It would also move forward with drug testing as a requirement for food stamp recipients.
Employment may be up in Wisconsin, but some families are still struggling to put food on the table, and it can be even more challenging for older adults.