On Thanksgiving, food is something many of us take for granted. There is a turkey on the table. There is green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberries.
There is meat, vegetables, fruit and grain — as well as pumpkin and apple pie, of course.
There is a lot for which to be thankful. But, not everyone shares the same fortune.
Not everyone is able to afford the staples of a Thanksgiving feast. There are many who have a hard time figuring out where money is going to come from to put food on the table to feed themselves, much less an entire family.
FoodShare, which provides funds for food to those in need, gives some assistance. That can be helpful, but that doesn’t take into account a second problem — access to food.
Not everyone is able to grab the keys and jump into the car when they need something from the store.
Access to food is a major issue. It’s an issue that was addressed in state Assembly Bill 501, which would create a pilot program that would encourage healthy eating among Wisconsin’s FoodShare recipients.
This bill requires the Department of Health Services to establish and implement a pilot program to provide discounts to certain households that are eligible for FoodShare benefits with discounts on fresh produce and other healthy foods.
One idea that has been tried in Milwaukee is the implementation of the mobile food market.
The Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee teamed up with Pick ‘n Save to fill a trailer full of produce and drive out to Milwaukee’s “food deserts,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as areas being more than one mile from a grocery store or supermarket (10 miles in rural areas). At those locations, the task force sells the produce at a 25 percent discount.
It launched in 2016 and Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, said they have sold more than $500,000 worth of produce.
That idea has given access to healthy food to hundreds who may not have had that access to in the past.
That is the kind of innovative idea we should be trying out here in Racine.
Racine County Food Bank Executive Director Dan Taivalkoski said his organization has teamed up with the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s FoodWIse program and Mount Mary University’s dietetics students to study what some of the other food barriers are in Racine.
Surveys were handed out at Food Bank locations to clients that asked about transportation, income, education and other factors that may affect healthy eating.
In the past, other ideas about encouraging healthy eating among FoodShare recipients have been brought up, including limiting what items FoodShare recipients can purchase.
But Taivalkoski said he likes the pilot program better because proposals to eliminate the ability to buy sugary products would turn grocery stores into the “food police.”
While it may be too late for this legislative session, the Legislature should keep this idea in the forefront.
Creating ways to incentivize healthy eating and make healthy eating options readily available should be a priority, on Thanksgiving and throughout the year.