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.


have you actually been inside those stores? Many of them offer small selections of organic/local produce, cheese, bread,milk.. basically if they are legally able to accept foodstamps, they have to go thru a process to actually be set up in the system to take foodstamps. in order to do that they have to meet requirements.. for example your local gas station offers some things like milk canned foods and some fruit, which is covered, while the beer that they also sell, that people might want to purchase with foodstamps is not. Just because someone comes out of a store with a brown paper bag, doesnt mean that they bought booze, it might just mean they dont like plastic bags, that are more harmful to the environment, then recycled paper bags.

Your unwillingness to use your food budget to buy certain foods is not a reason to prevent me from doing so. I'm guessing that (given your argument using the criminal stores & FS recipients buying alcohol) you're also in favor of banning self-defense tools for everyone just because a few criminals use them to harm innocent citizens. (The number of crimes committed using guns is something like 1/100th of the number of times citizens use guns to defend themselves.)

If your concern is junk food and soda, why not simply restrict those food products that are taxed? That would eliminate the ability to purchase soda, candy, and snack foods. A person would still have lots of choices for foods that fit their diets and be able to shop for a healthy variety.

all the issues. Sure you stop true "junk" food purchases but again the program was designed to help struggling families not provide them with all organic/craft foods. I have let to hear anyone address why they advocate for these people to be able to get all organic/brands yet those paying taxes to support the program cannot afford those themselves. I can speak from experience that these guidelines as well as say the food share program are much to lax. When you can walk out with sushi and a bucket of cold chicken in addition to what free things you get from wic there is a serious problem.

Why is it any concern of yours if the person ahead of you chooses to spend $8 on a small tray of sushi (maybe for a celebration?) instead of 2 dry pounds of beans, 2 dry pounds of brown rice, and some fresh or frozen vegetables? That person has either saved up some of their benefits for a treat, or is going to be facing too much month at the end of their food. Either way, it's their choice. If someone wants to feel like they're eating more healthfully by buying non-gmo or non-chemical foods, and they understand that they'll be eating less, why is that a problem? Most of us should eat less. Notice that soy milk would also be prohibited. It's healthier for us than cow milk. And since you can't get goat milk in gallons, people would be limited to drinking cow milk with all its moral & chemical problems.

Why is providing anyone with organic foods something that "needs to be addressed"?! You have a problem with people being able to make their own food decisions? With someone deciding they don't want pesticide-laden food? Or milk with growth hormones? Or eggs from factory farms with increased incidence of diseases/antibiotics? Or, like your gov and legislature, are you simply desiring to back the corporations behind the allowed foods to increase their profits from "your tax dollars" while screwing your small-business neighbors?

Under the program, families get a certain amount of money to spend on their groceries. If they want to buy brown eggs, that's their choice. They're not getting anything "extra" for their money. Why would you want the government to tell families what to eat?

For starters you really have no idea what is allowed under food stamp rules. Both your sushi (fall into prepared foods) and your cold bucket of chicken (also falls into prepared foods) are not allowed under foodstamps guidines.. while someone might have bought the majority of their groceries with foodstamps, those purchases would have had to have been made with cold hard cash. http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/eligible.htm Households CANNOT use SNAP benefits to buy: Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco; Any nonfood items, such as: -- pet foods; -- soaps, paper products; and -- household supplies. Vitamins and medicines. Food that will be eaten in the store. Hot foods.

Your a selfish idiot who doesn't know what you are talking about. Where is your heart and Christian love.

into the system is the selfish idiot not those complaining about the quality of their free food? LOL you are an example of what is wrong with so many people today