Wisconsin Bill Would Treat Organic Milk, Sharp Cheddar, Brown Eggs as "Junk Food"

Wisconsin ranks 44th in the nation for new job creation. Rather than rolling up their sleeves and finding new and innovative ways to help create jobs, the Wisconsin legislature is spending its time telling people needing food assistance what they should be eating. AB 110, which will be up for a vote in the Assembly on Tuesday, May 7, is geared toward limiting "the amount of food stamp benefits that could be spent on junk food." But some of the fine print of the bill, bizarrely, would ban people from choosing more healthy and less expensive options for their families. The bill is one of many being considered that are unduly punitive of the poor.

Restricting Access to Organic and Other Whole Foods

WIC EggsAs of March 2013, 858,000 Wisconsinites receive FoodShare benefits. The bill, AB 110, would limit FoodShare, Wisconsin's food stamp program funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported, Governor Scott Walker has already proposed to require all "able-bodied adults" who receive food stamps (and don't have dependent children) to train or search for work in order to continue receiving those benefits. This even though Walker has failed to create the 250,000 jobs he promised when running for office in 2010.

Now Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) is sponsoring another bill to further limit FoodShare. Kaufert told the Wisconsin Radio Network that the bill would make it so that a benefit recipient "can't buy six bags of nachos and four cases of soda."

Specifically, the amended program would allow only a third of an individual's FoodShare benefits to be spent on a full range of food as they currently can be. The remaining two-thirds would be subject to the same restrictions as the federal Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutritional program, with some small modifications. (Both programs, of course, bar restaurant food, cigarettes, alcohol, and pet foods.)

WIC MilkWIC is a federal program intended to supplement food stamp benefits for a particularly vulnerable population of women and young children. As such, it has strict -- and at times very odd -- guidelines to focus these supplemental food dollars on nutritionally dense staple foods.

Wisconsin's AB 110 would mandate that two-thirds of a person's FoodShare benefits could be spent only on foods on the WIC-approved list. Exemptions have been added so recipients can also purchase fish, beef, pork, chicken, and potatoes. Strangely, exemptions were not added so that the "healthy" two-thirds could also be spent on a full range of healthy Wisconsin farm products and fresh food.

The result is that the bulk of your FoodShare dollars can be spent on milk, but not organic milk; on eggs, but only on white eggs by the dozen, not on brown, free-range, or organic eggs; on 100 percent whole wheat bread, but not on gluten-free bread for those with Celiac disease; on slices of American cheese, but not sharp cheddar. FoodShare dollars can be spent on dry beans, but not if they come from a money-saving bulk bin at your local food coop. You can get juice boxes for your children, but only Juicy Juice brand juice boxes.

In order for the state Department of Health Services to implement changes to FoodShare purchasing guidelines, it would need to attain a federal waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). But when Minnesota tried to prohibit purchase of candy or soda in 2004, and New York City tried to ban purchase of certain sugary drinks in 2010, both waiver requests were denied. The USDA points out the lack of clear standards to define foods as healthy or unhealthy.

As Bill Approaches Vote, Public Input Needed

According to the Associated Press, the Assembly committee heard input from food companies, grocery stores, and food banks. They told Wisconsin lawmakers that restrictions "would shame recipients and burden businesses with enforcement." Democrats on the committee -- who voted against the measure -- said it "would stigmatize poor people who already have limited options in buying food."

In addition to Rep. Kaufert, AB 110's supporters include Representatives John Nygren (R-Marinette), Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls), Ed Brooks (R-Reedsburg), Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc), Garey Bies (R-Sister Bay), Samantha Kerkman (R-Powers Lake), Scott Krug (R-Wisconsin Rapids), Pat Strachota (R-West Bend), Daniel LeMahieu (R-Cascade), Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), Alvin Ott (R-Forest Junction), Mike Endsley (R-Sheboygan), Jeffrey Mursau (R-Crivitz), and Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City). In the Senate, the bill's supporters include Senators Robert Cowles (R-Shawano), Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan), Frank Lasee (R-Casco), and Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend).

As Wisconsin Assemblymembers gather to vote on this bill May 7, these elected officials should expect to hear from those whose lives and food choices would be directly affected by the bill.

NOTE: AB 110 passed the Wisconsin State Assembly on May 7, 2013.


I work hard for my money and buy the Value brand bread, the value brand milk, cheese etc. I shudder at the fact that people supplied with a healthy amount of funds in forms of food assistance have the option to choose quality brand name food products. If your on a food assistance program you should be limited to the "value" brands. I am limited to them because my budget (which i earn myself) limits me. Your lazy and broke and you get to eat farm fresh cage free eggs? NO. Limiting food stamps usage is a grand idea, but needs to be limited even further! doing so would cut back on the WIC and Food-share budgets immensely. I mean come on starving people in Africa would kill for some "great value" bread and butter. Quit whining and get a job.

Dear "sir," (and I use the term loosely... I work hard for my money too, and have, when times were bad, or in between jobs, used Food Stamps. Money that I had already been contributing to via the taxes I paid. I also tend to put a higher value on foods that have ingredients that I can pronounce. I save a little extra each month to ensure that my children are not eating pesticide-laden foods, or toxic chemicals. And that's my choice as a parent. "Quit whining and get a job..." (first off, you spelled it incorrectly, and secondly, when was the last time you looked for a job? In this economy, you'd be surprised who is and who is not on food stamps.) Instead of whining yourself, what are your solutions? If a woman has a child, and the only option is a job that pays LESS per week than the cost of living, should she just suck it up and feed her child saltine crackers and water? Are you aware that a minimum wage job, at 40 hours per week, which most employers will NOT offer, because then they'd have to offer benefits, which no employer wants to do. On average, the monthly rental of an apartment is $1000-$200, depending on location, size, etc. The frugal amount one can spend on utilities per month is approximately $150.00 (and that's being frugal). Continuing the frugal theme, you can feed a family of 4 for about $400.00 per month in an urban metropolis. Then there's daycare - the cheap daycares are about $200.00 per week (AT BEST). A monthly transportation card (cheaper than a car!) is about $100.00 per month. Add it up, on the cheap end? BARE bones to just eek by, and heaven forfend you get sick, or your kid needs to go to the doctor, or you want to eat more than beans and rice, is about $2,500.00. If you are making minimum wage, at a rate of $7.25-$8.25 (higher in an urban metropolis such as NYC or Chicago), you're getting about $300.00 GROSS per week. Which is about $1100.00 per MONTH, and that's BEFORE taxes. So you do the math, sir. There's something wrong with this country when we demand folks get a job, but aren't willing to pay them to cover their BASIC needs.

Maybe if you were to get a better job you wouldn't have to buy the value brand kick rocks and mind your business. People who recieve food share is not lazy. This information comes from the foolish ones

"I am limited to them because my budget limits me" If you have (as an example) $200 per month for food, you can spend it in any way you choose. If you buy something of better quality in one area, you are choosing to buy lesser quality (or quantity) elsewhere... just as someone who uses foodshare does. I regularly buy from the 99c old produce bin at Woodman's (used to be 79c until very recently). I'll buy store brand beans (canned & dry), store brand rice, store brand spices, store brand canned vegetables; most of what I buy is under $2/lb so that when I do buy higher quality foods I have the money to do it. So yes, I do occasionally use my foodshare money to buy meat, or cream, or a cake mix, or juice, or tea, or even cookies. For my birthday I buy a bag of shrimp or a piece of salmon. But I've scrimped on other foods in order to do it. And BTW, I'd love to be able to get a job which would allow me to support myself. Finding a job at all is hard, finding one with a living wage and healthcare benefits is proving next to impossible.

What does it matter how they spend their little funds. If they chose to get all organic, they will just be able to buy less of it. It's not like they get a voucher for a carton of eggs, they get a $5 food stamp to use. Just because a family falls on hard times should not mean they are no longer entitled to eat Cheddar cheese or gluten free bread. This is america, let they worry about their own budget. Worry more about the lazy minority gaming the system that about the family that have found they need to rely on help.

You have just shown us that as a freedom loving American you enjoy the right to have a choice. People that receive food assistance have a much, much, smaller budget than you. Just because they can buy better things than value brand food doesn't mean they actually do. I've seen first hand the idiots who waste what they have, yet they were much more rare than the people who clipped every coupon, stocked up at every sale, and shopped smart. The second thing you have shown is your poor reading comprehension ability. "Quit whining and get a job", are you serious? Did you read the same article as me? It points out that 858,000 people from WI are on food stamps, and that Walker has failed to create the 250,000 jobs he promised since 2010. That means a solid 1/3 of the people on food stamps who more than likely want a job can't even get one because jobs are unavailable. "Quit whining and get a job" has to be the most insulting thing you could say to your fellow Americans who are making an honest struggle to get by.

Use some logic, friend. Not every person who gets benefits is this cookie cutter image you speak of. If I get a job, I will have to get childcare. Childcare is extremely expensive, it would take my entire check and would not leave my WORKING husband and I with any extra - but it would take away from ME raising MY children and would be paying for strangers to do it. How does this make ANY sense? Here, take my money AND my precious time with my children.... I'll go exhaust myself for no reason. Sorry you are too proud to receive benefits, but if you are working you are paying for those benefits via taxes. Not to mention the years and years I DID work before having kids, and also put toward that. If I am receiving benefits to help me raise my family, I don't want to feed them generic brands all the time. Do you know what cellulose is? It's WOOD PULP, and it is what the generic brands use in place of "expensive ingredients" to keep the price down. If I am getting help to raise my kids, I am going to do the best damn job I can do...and I'm sure as hell not feeding them wood pulp. Quit whining and grow a soul

Like you, I have often been reduced to purchasing bargain brands because of funds - and maybe a few years ago, would have written a post such as yours. I think that now, when we have seen the problems junky processed foods wage on our population in regards to obesity, diabetes and other health concerns, that letting those on assistance choose more healthy options is really in OUR best interest. The poor will only get sicker -and require more assistance - if they can not choose better options. That means more costs to you and me in the long run. Yes, working folks can not always buy "organic" or "free range" and I doubt many folks on food assistance still won't either because of the cost; they will want their SNAP funds to go further. But I think this law will only relegate people into having to eat unhealthy food.

You need to work smarter and spend more wisely so that you too can enjoy organic eggs and milk. They are better for you and for growing children. Our son and his family are organic farmers providing great foodstuffs at farmers' markets and through a CSA. Don't prevent anyone from buying their excellent products.

Hmmm... maybe if you were eating organic milk and free range eggs your view of the world wouldn't be so unhealthy. I would rather poor people eat these healthier things than need massive medical care brought about by eating unhealthier GMO/processed foods. It is actually cheaper in the long run to eat healithier food. Most of the people eating this food are CHILDREN and child labor is banned here.