Wisconsin residents receiving food stamp benefits would be eligible for discounts on fresh produce and other healthy foods under a bipartisan bill in the state Legislature.

The bill would require the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to create a pilot program that would provide discounts to families eligible for FoodShare. The goal of the program is to see if the health of people using FoodShare can be improved, Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, said.

Rohrkaste said the benefit of the program is two-fold. Individuals will be eating healthier because they’re buying fresh produce, and since they will be getting discounts, it’ll make their FoodShare money go further than it would have without the discounts.

“This is a creative way to improve or assess people who are on FoodShare benefits to not only give them an incentive to buy healthier foods but also give them a way to extend their FoodShare benefits even further and ultimately improve their health outcomes,” Rohrkaste said.

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The goal is to get 2,000 participants who are interested in the idea or in improving their buying habits participate during a nine to 12 month time frame, Rohrkaste said. The key measurement, he said, will be to see how many participants use more of their FoodShare dollars on fruits and vegetables than they did before the program.

There are a number of grocery stores interested in participating, including Woodman’s, Rohrkaste said.

Feeding Wisconsin, one of the groups supporting the legislation, believes the bill addresses the core issue of cost and helps FoodShare recipients eat healthy, Feeding Wisconsin executive director David Lee said.

“It’s great to see that our state is taking the lead on ensuring that our friends and neighbors have the resources they need to purchase more healthy options in the FoodShare program,” Lee said.

The bill could be taken up by the state Assembly as early as next week, Rohrkaste said.