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.


What is the purpose of restricting foods that some people with special diets due to medical issues need, such as gluten free items or soy milks for those that have celiac disease or lactose intolerance???? There are people out there with these issues such as my daughter. I use part of my food stamps every month to buy my daughter soy milk because her body can't digest regular milk....by the way a half gallon of the soy milk costs more than a gallon of regular 1% milk. If this is made into law my daughter will no longer be able to drink milk anymore, which is just one more thing that she can't have due to her intolerance of dairy products. Soy milk is a healthy option for my daughter and should not be a restricted item. I work and pay taxes but I do still receive a little bit of food stamps each month which is very much needed to supplement the little bit of grocery money I have to spend each month after paying my bills. I think that congress needs to find something else more important to stick their greedy noses into.

I agree with your statement above, but actually soy milk is not good for your daughter because of the high estrogen level. Look more into Almond milk... much healthier. All the best to you!

What is healthy for one may not be healthy for all. Those of us who have children who are sensitive to cow dairy, may find soy, rice, goat or other alternative milks preferable. I have a child who is allergic to almonds, and sensitive to cow's milk and soy. The issue is not whether one food item is good or bad for another; we as parents and individuals need to make those decisions for ourselves and our families. Republicans and Tea-Partiers who purport to favor less government intervention across the board should not be telling anyone what to put in their grocery bag!

From reading the list, it seems that there are two REAL purposes: first, to put more profit in the hands of companies that make plain "1950" type foods that do not LOOK like junk food but, due to manufacturing costs, actually are, and less in the hands of "liberal" or "hippie" owned food sources that make the healther, organic products. And second, to make sure that kids growing up poor are less healthy because of what they ate growing up, AND more likely to shun healthier foods because of lack of exposure to them. The fact that ALEC is associated with this bill (which even goes against local agriculture in that state; WISCONSIN restricting their OWN BEST KNOWN PRODUCT? What's next, FLORIDA restricting ORANGE JUICE?) tends to suggest that profit for "big agra" and "big pharma" (since eating less healthy foods leads to greater need for medicines) is the motivation. The health of poor children is just collateral damage, and since they don't vote...

I don't understand food stamps never been on them but what I do know is you get a certain amount of money that only works on food items each month when its gone its gone. For one I totally get that some peoples dietary needs are different than other people, I drink soy milk I buy the shelf stable packages from the dollar store because they are lower calorie than even skim milk and the smartest because I only eat it on cereal, and I eat egg beaters because its low calorie, and I don't see punishing those with dietary restrictions and I would love to see people on food stamps trying to take care of there health through better eating if they want to eat healthy and loose weight let them, when people care for themselves risks associated with unhealthy diet or being overweight such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease, kidney disease, etc all goes down and you might be able to get off medication(s) health care costs go down and if there on food stamps there probably also getting assistance with there healthcare too. I don't know exactly how food stamps work but I know different food goes on sale each week and I am not sure if people on food stamps can use coupons but sometimes coupons and/or sale prices makes certain name brands of foods or foods like chocolate milk cheaper and smarter than buying plain white milk if your kid drinks it why make it when you can get it cheaper on sale, and the powder or syrup to make chocolate milk, sometimes chocolate milk is actually cheaper than WHITE milk especially the way the grocery stores run sales and I am sure people with food stamps try and maximize there food stamps, of course there are always going to be people who spend them foolishly but once its gone that's there problem. I know WIC is a whole different program but I also noticed when I go to some stores there are foods that say "WIC APPROVED" and they usually tend to be cheap, if you want a good price look for the WIC sign its usually the cheapest but some weeks another brand is a cheaper choice than the WIC approved, because of like a sale or a rollback or there's like a multi-pack of canned vegetables that would be cheaper, and its like well this would want people who are on WIC to get whats on sale for less.

I used to work for WIC. They will only reimburse the grocer for a reasonable price. So I would guess that's why the WIC cereals etc. are reasonably price.

So did they actually call it junk, or are you just sort of making that assumption as it looks like they may limit more expensive brown egg options? Not saying limiting becuase of $$ amount is a good idea either, but I would like to see the actual statement that says Brown Eggs are junk food.

The article shows part of the specific language of the bill. While the SUMMARY of the bill cites "junk food" as the reason for the restrictions themselves actually LIST brown or organic eggs, organic cheese, etc. One restriction (which to me is like saying poor diabetics cannot buy insulin with Medicaid) disallows the only kind of bread that people with Celiac disease can safely eat! I'm not sure whether someone was just ignorant and concerned with money, thinking gluten free bread is just a trendy upscale fad, or if they were paid off by Wonder Bread and their ilk. Probably both. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson tried to wage war on poverty. Since the 1980's the GOP has been waging war on POOR PEOPLE, both in government and in the private sector. Remember the income tax "reform" that Reagan got Congress to pass in 1986? Before that, you could deduct interest on car loans and credit cards, in fact ALL kinds of consumer debt. Since then, you can only deduct interest on loans secured by your HOME, if you are fortunate enough to OWN ONE. This allowed banks to replace "regular" credit cards with lines of credit from second mortgages, so that when a downturn in home values comes along (as in 2007-2009) more homeowners were at risk because of second mortgages to spend like credit card loans, while people who could not afford to buy a home lost one of the breaks that made their lives a little better. This is another example of the (Re)public(an)-private partnership to vacuum up whatever loose change the average American still has and put it to "good use" buying yachts and dressage horses. Back to (John Maynard) Keynes or back to (Charles) Dickens, it's our choice.

The list of people, all RepugnantCONs, that support this 'bill'/ALEC template legislation is quite possibly a laundry list of ALEC or Koch Brother, Koch Industry CONtribution recipients. "…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-Fond du Lac)." - from the above article. It will take some time to sniff out all their paper shuffling.