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.


Not everyone who is on Foodshare or using State aided programs are lazy. In my opnion these programs were created to help families in need. Yes there are individuals who misuse and abuse the system. Does this make it right to make children and individuals who do not abuse the system to be punished? How is cutting way back on WIC and Foodshare going to help those who justly need it? In my life I have had the need to use such programs. I have always worked, but that does not mean life does not throw curve balls at unexpected times. It entirely depends upon the intergity of the individual who is on these programs whether or not they will use the assistance wisely or not. As a country we need to wise up and train up our children with honesty and intergity.

am very sorry that you feel you are so limited by your budget. but why take out your anger issues on people less well off than you. people on wic/food stamps are NOT automatically lazy or out of work by choice. you are being most unfair & its OBVIOUS you have never been on such programs. its damn difficult to Get the help when one needs it (and i DO speak from experience!) i also speak to the fact you CAN eat better ON or off them if one pays attention & actually ISNT lazy.. You are the one whining about having to use value brands but its cheaper & better quality/taste to make from scratch.. the cost of the base ingrediants to make bread is far far cheaper than a loaf of dubious quality value brand. you buy canned goods why arent you buying from local growers & canning your own -again FAR cheaper.. soups, chili's, meat vegetables for a few hours work can fill your pantry for less than ANY grocery store. - when we were on food stamps to feed my children -- i learned and USED them for the ingrediants & my children ate better- so frankly i find your arguments without value they only seem to be ranting at others rather than dealing with your own anger.

Not everyone on food stamps is lazy and buying junk food! That is your choice to buy value brand foods. Seriously whats the difference? 20 cents? If you don't like it get a better job since you think its so easy!

so people that happen to be without a job for a while and are use to a diet of GOOD food should switch to crap or value brands. Problem is you work to hard for to little. But then again, you wouldn't know. Crap food clouds the brain.

Your ignorance and lack of compassion are absolutely astounding. You're bitter that you can't afford to buy food that you like, so you think everyone else should suffer, too? Here's a thought...how about you try putting some effort into improving your community and your state in order to help promote job growth, rather than trying to punish people who have a difficult enough time making ends meet as it is. Being on foodstamps does not automatically imply laziness. That's called a stereotype and, like most stereotypes, it simply isn't true. You should stop watching Faux News long enough to find out what's actually going on in the world around you, instead of assuming that anyone who uses foodstamps is somehow inferior to you.

It's not that easy anymore. My fiance was just laid off from his job, has sent in over 30 applications in the past week (he hasn't even gotten his last paycheck yet so he can't apply for unemployment), and has not heard back from a single posted position he's applied for. I make 8$ an hour; if we didn't have our savings to fall back on, then he would have to get SNAP or something of the like. Even buying "value brands" puts our grocery bills higher than what I would be able to afford without my savings. We both have school debt which further perpetuates the fact that we'd be utterly dependent on food stamps if it weren't for us saving up money when he had his job. On top of that, I am lactose intolerant and so I vouch for the "nut milks" (almond milk in particular) because lactose free is more expensive and less healthy. Wisconsin is 44th in the country for new job growth, and not all poor people or SNAP/WIC dependent people are unemployed. How do you propose finding a job when there's none to find?

Every person chooses how to budget their own money. You don't know someone else's circumstance. Maybe you choose to drive a nicer car or have material things and you skimp on your food budget. Our family drives 2 used cars and doesn't spend money on clothing etc unless it is hugely discounted or bought used. We don't color our hair or get our nails done or have smart phones or cable TV... We spend our money on whole foods though. We buy farm fresh eggs and organic milk and we make our own bread and such things. I don't get food stamps and our family of 4 live on a meager budget but we still choose healthy unprocessed foods and do a lot of cooking from scratch and don't eat out to make up the difference. For example, you can make a whole lot of delicious healthy yogurt with one gallon of organic milk... Way more than you can get for the same price when buying cheap store brand yogurt by the cup that is loaded with fake sugar. Just sayin'... Limiting people from buying soda and candy I do understand but limiting healthy food choices because some people are ignorant to the health costs that processed foods impose on individuals and on our goverment funded health programs is foolish.

I understand people should not use this for junk (soda, chips, etc) but it seems contradictory that one can't get organic items as they have been proven to be healthier just as soda & sugary snacks have been proven not to be healthy. I have DIAGNOSED Celiac Disease and cannot have Wheat, Barley, Rye or Spelt, I will be hospitalized if I do. Although it seems logical to make my own bread, it is not always cheapest since I have to keep a minimum 3 gluten free flours on hand that are NOT cheap. I think one with these conditions should have the option of buying gluten free items as well as the ingredients that make them. Stop kick those that are already down.

How pathetic that this topic would be used to produce a class war. I do not receive food benefits but I will tell you as a disabled person that has worked over 35 years, paid taxes, and now because of the cost of living have to really stretch those buckos; I choose organic because they are, really, in the long run, less expensive. We all pay for it on one end or the other. Either you eat a little less and eat good, nutritious food and avoid some medical bills; or you eat processed crap and pay the doctor. I have chosen to stay as healthy as I can and because someone is getting assistance they should be able to choose for themselves and not be forced to purchase processed crap! This is what would be done with this law. You get just so much money and must be used for food. I can see not allowing snacks and sodas and such but the person should be able to choose organic if they want.