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.


Corn tortillas are banned. look you wack jobs, the point here is that the list of allowed, and another list of banned foods is a complete joke. Makes NO SENSE. The purpose of this bill is to piss everyone off, screw up the works, and accomplish nothing of value to anyone. The people who came up with this list have no idea what they are doing. That much is obvious. But welfare for rich corporations is just fine. These idiots like that. This country has turned into a giant ponzi scheme. If you kicked half the people off of snap, the economy would take a big hit. SNAP is just a big subsidy for the entire food industry. But people gotta eat. Hard to work when you don't have food. Anyone who blows their SNAP on junk food finds out real quick that they can be hungry, or they can spend that money WISELY. The definitions of junk food in this bill make no sense. Period. That's what is wrong with this bill.

Gee, I have Type I diabetes (the kind that's genetic/not my fault, unlike Type II which can generally be fixed with diet and exercise), and I work my ass off to pay for my own private healthcare and my own healthy food. Why? Because THAT'S American. And I don't work for a large corporation that pays for half my healthcare premiums either--I'm a small business owner. So stop whining. No one puts food on my table but me, so I can have what I want, though I eat healthy because I choose to. If I have to pay for your food, then I should be able to tell you you're not allowed to have cookies, chips, cupcakes, pizza, sugary cereal, etc. Getting free stuff and then thinking you have a right to demand the best stuff money can buy...that's just lazy. THAT'S un-American. If you want to be lazy, go elsewhere. You're ruining our great nation. Eggs, milk and vegetables of any kind--even non-organic--are better for you than the junk foods I listed above. Have a little self-respect people. And if you want the freedom to eat whatever you want, then pay for it yourself. Freedom isn't free.

Anonymous, I fear that you may have missed the point of the article. It's about having *healthy* food options restricted. I understand your concern for junk food. But having healthIER, organic food as banned food is just silly, especially since healthier food makes for a better diet --> healthier person --> less of a drag on the social services system. Kudos to you for starting your own business, by the way. Not everyone has the capability to do that right now. Some people are planning on doing that in the future, but can't for now. And many of those people, for the mean time, are on food stamps because they can't afford the regular costs of food. I actually just started my own business as well, and I used to be on the "stamps". Give folks a chance. Don't criminalize/judge just because they are poor. It could happen to anyone. Best of wishes to you and your enterprise. ap

Anonymous, The first thing to point out is the writer of this article has a clearly obvious agenda: they don't like the idea of requiring food stamp users to make healthy choices. That being said, I think we are discussing three issues: personal freedom in the context of being dependent on the state, and cost. First, cost: I'm sure the options listed... free range, organic, etc. are limited are because they are much more expensive. I wonder if the average American has the resources to get the higher-end foods listed there...I clearly don't. I would love to buy organic free-range type food, but I buy white eggs and standard milk simply because I have finite resources. Which brings me to the second point, personal freedom in the context of being dependent on the state: If the average citizen cannot afford these products, why should those on food stamps use funds forcefully taken from the average citizen to purchase them? Obviously, this is inherently unfair, unethical, and must be avoided at all costs. The cost/benefit to purchasing these options is also highly uncertain. How much healthier will I be buying brown eggs vs white eggs? If that's really a concern for people, they should SUPPORT a bill which doesn't let people purchase junk food. Junk is far worse for people than the questionable benefits (especially considering the cost) for organic/free range/non-GMO. SC

Are you one that don't believe in birthday control either? you say stop whining- take your own advice. It's not the fault of Wisconsin that you have type 1 diabetes. So being a business owner .. how much you pay your employees? LOL


Totally agree, people are getting free food! What's the problem again? It would make more sense to limit the amount that could be spent rather than marking organic as 'junk'. That a gallon of milk or pound of meat is twice as much or more than the standard is what makes me agree it should not be allowed.

And what about the tax dollars i put into the system, Doesnt that mean anything to anyone? Just because i have a crappy minimum wage job that doesnt quite pay the bills and forces me to resort to begging for food after paying all the bills. Why should you have the right to dictate what i can buy or not buy with my foodstamps? while sure i can agree with most real junk food, ie soda, candybars, high fat high sugar low nutritional items being limited for a matter of health concerns, maybe i should designate that my tax dollars cant go to paying for firefighters to put out your house fire, that my tax dollars wont go to repairing potholes on your street, that my tax dollars wont go to paying for police to answer your 911 calls. maybe i can insure that my tax dollars wont go towards anything military related, which ensures you keep having the freedoms you want that many other countries dont have, Heck maybe i can even dictate that my tax dollars wont go to pay for the costs of having your child/ren in public schools. All these programs our funded by our tax dollars too, but because of a few people you think of as "free loaders", your only focus is on foodstamps.. which i might add many many many of the people on foodstamps are working or have worked and paid into the system, why shouldnt they be allowed to have them when they need them? not to mention that, but why shouldnt i be allowed to eat organic locally produced food that coincides with my beliefs regarding sustainable practices, Humane treatment of animals. low carbon footprints, and supporting small business owners like yourself instead of companies like the ones im forced to work for that cant even pay me a living wage for the hard work i do.

I am curious as to your education level. Did you graduate from high school? Have you pursued any type of specific training or education that would give you a skill or trade so that you don't have to be stuck in your "crappy minimum wage job"? I do believe that there are people who do need help, who have done all the right things to make a living wage and feed their families, however, I have no sympathy for people with 5 children to feed. Having those 5 children was her decision, not mine. I think the food stamp bill should allow organic, gluten free, etc., but the junk I see people buying with their food stamp cards is riduculous; bags of chips, cookies, ice cream, soda, cakes and other non-nutritional foods. Yes, I do think it's my business what you buy with your food stamps because I can't afford to buy that junk. Why should I pay for you to buy it?

I'm very happy that you are one of the few that put in while taking out. However, these are our (those of us not taking out) tax dollars being put in too, that's why we all vote together to decide. It's not that I want to tell you what to eat, but a lack of nutrition means you aren't thinking at your potential. I can tell you're very smart, and it's the people like you that I want to see benefit from this. The additives they use in crappy food are made from heavy metals and other toxins. They're actually addictive and the coal tar based dyes and flavorings cause clouded thinking. It's because they're lead based. Look up the ingredients for food dyes. They also include heavy metals and other elements to obtain the colors. Now look up the symptoms of ADHD and then the symptoms of lead poisoning. Please note what the long term affects of lead poisoning are - a lack of growth to the frontal lobe, the decision making portion of the brain. What does this mean? Take a look at the studies done on criminals in a california prison. All of the criminals that committed a violent, heinous crime had either damage or what was described as a deformity - "shrinkage" of the frontal lobe. This was not shrinkage, but rather a lack of growth. Bad food = Bad decisions.