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.


If your circumstances changed and you were forced to utilize food assistance, you would not be able to purchase items like flour, sugar, seasonings, some oils. Cooking from scratch would likely become challenging or impossible if this bill passes. Ironically, if you were physically, mentally, or cognitively challenged and/or you did not have access to true cooking facilities beyond a microwave or hot plate, most prepared foods, healthy or less so, will not be allowed either. These meals may have less nutritional value than fresh food, but can certainly help Foodshare and other dollars stretch. It is far better to incentivize fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lower fat, healthier cuts of meat and meat substitutes, and whole grains, etc., and to educate people on how and why to make different choices, rather than be arbitrary, punitive, and corporate-minded as AB110 and its supporters. Perhaps they could get 25% more value in these purchases (as long as AB110 seems to complicate grocers tracking already). I believe other state/s have succeeded with implementing incentivizing measures for truly healthy purchases-which may not be able to work out to every dietary need, but at least wouldn't penalize.

I feel exactly the same way. I find it bizarre that healthy options of any sorts would be considered a junk food, or a treat so to speak. When I buy organic, that is my treat so be it. But I'd rather see my tax payer dollars going towards healthy options, I don't have a problem limiting pop and chips, since a lot of the youth are heavy these days. But the organic section really bothered me. I also feel if they are going to tell people what to do buy, then they should start in the lunch rooms in schools, and ban the sale of pop and junk food and no more white bread... Sell water, and organic fruit in the school machine..and hey I know take a look at McD's additives etc, follow the rate of obesity and childhood cancers since they are both on the rise, and some of these people who find that ok should go back and tell their own family members who may be less fortunate when there company closes the door to keep buying only Nitrate, GMO foods and then rationalize it. Casting systems in US imagine that.

I believe that no matter what a person/family decides to buy with their food stamp benefits they should be allowed to choose. The reality of the situation is, if they choose options that are too expensive, they are going to run out of food stamps before they get more. This will teach families to be more responsible in budgeting and making wiser choices about the foods they are buying. To put foods on a banned list is irrational and takes away people's freedom to choose. ___________________________________________________________________________ <a href="http://www.slideshare.net/sherwood865/how-to-get-your-wife-to-love-you-again">How to get your wife to love you again</a>

This is ridiculous. I have used EBT benefits when I was in law school with a growing family, with some work we were able to make our benefits last every month and even had a sizable surplus when we were able to stop participating in the program. I say this to say that I am no stranger to the program, how to use it, where to use it and the other benefits attached to it. I have seen what many people buy using the benefit provided, this includes tons of soda, fast and easy highly processed foods and sugary snacks and the like. At first I judged those people for what I perceived as a waste of taxpayer provided benefits, as my wife and I were cutting coupons and trying to not abuse the program that literally allowed us some breathing room during school. But I am a big believer in free will, so let the people do as they will regarding the benefits. I am no fan of restricting the range of products available for purchase in either direction, but I think you can use incentives to incentivize the living of a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps a program that gives extra coupons or benefit money if you can show that a certain amount of your allotted money goes towards fruits and vegetables. Or perhaps giving cash vouchers for participation in healthy eating contests, etc. An unhealthy society on public welfare costs more to us because they also participate in publicly provided health care. You would think with this idea in mind you would want to incentivize the purchase of as many healthful and organic products as possible, not limit them by calling them junk food and the like. This change in the language is stupid and frankly irresponsible. Contact me if you would like more ideas or help rewording.

So you couldn't really afford to go to law school (with a growing family, no less), but instead of working and saving your money and then going or getting loans which you'd pay back on your own, you let all of us help fund your education so we'd have another lawyer in the world? I think I need to throw up.

My mother and I are on SNAP right now. My mother is a diabetic, and I have metabolic syndromes. We make our own breads because the breads in bags at the store are chock full of sugars and carcinogens and we literally can't eat them. According to the WIC list, we can't buy our own ingredients - flour, baking soda, yeast, buttermilk, and other ingredients are considered junk food. We can't buy whole grain breads or tortillas for my mother, even though she HAS to eat them. Canned soups (cream ofs or anything else) are not allowed either, and we cook with those a lot during cold weather. Raw ingredients are not just used for breads and such, but they are the glue that makes meals work. Herbs and spices are also not on the list, either. This change will completely change the way my family eats. We don't need legislated obesity help. We need food.

Maybe you should go consult a dietician because if your mother is a diabetic she shouldn't be having any type white, whole grain, or whole wheat bread because its more difficult to digest. She should be consuming things that are easier to digest such as corn tortillas and such. I'm not a dietician, but I do know plenty of diabetics. (this is assuming she is Type II and not Type I, you didn't specify)