By a bipartisan vote of 68-26, the Wisconsin state Assembly has approved AB-110
, a measure requiring beneficiaries of SNAP
-- known in Wisconsin as FoodShare
, or more colloquially as food stamps -- to spend at least 2/3 of their monthly benefits on items from "a list of state-defined healthy foods" [PDF]
Even if the bill is approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, its existence remains purely symbolic; its proposed application is illegal at the federal level. Since the federal government provides the vast majority of funding for the FoodShare/SNAP program in the state, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services (DHS) would need to acquire a waiver directly from the Obama administration in order to implement the bill -- a procedural move that has been attempted several times, none successfully.
"[T]here are no figures on how much of the nearly $1.2 billion a year in FoodShare benefits in Wisconsin are spent on junk food," and the DHS has confirmed that "no studies have looked at the spending on different kinds of groceries within Wisconsin's FoodShare program" [source]
. Even the bill's lead sponsor, state Rep. Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah) "acknowledges he hasn't seen any figures on what portion of FoodShare goes for unhealthy purchases and that he can't be sure his proposal as written would increase the amount of nutritious food purchased" [source]
Although the bill is both unable to be legally implemented and resoundingly opposed by groups as disparate as high-powered corporate lobbyists, megaconglomerates like Kraft Food Group, and local non-profit organizations like Hunger Task Force, its passage remains a top priority for a number of Wisconsin's elected officials. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, AB-110 co-sponsor Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), husband of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, stated, "We are just simply saying if you are going to take the money that we have worked so hard for as taxpayers and use it . . . there should be some limitations" [source]
When asked about current FoodShare spending levels on "healthy" vs. "non-healthy" foods, lead sponsor Sen. Kaufert admitted, "Nobody knows anything except anecdotally" [source]
, and continues on his quest for Wisconsin to be the first state allowed to restrict SNAP purchases via USDA waiver: "Let Wisconsin be the test case. Let us lead the way" [source]
Six years after a 2004 "no food stamps for junk food" bill introduced in Minnesota by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty was rejected by the USDA
, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg made headlines -- and merited another USDA rejection -- with an attempt to ban food stamp recipients from using their benefits to purchase soda and other sugary beverages (previously
In 2012 alone, eight states introduced measures to limit or restrict food purchases made using SNAP benefits, but none were passed or implemented [source]
. One such bill was introduced in Florida in January 2012
, and April 2012 saw Gov. Nathan Deal sign HB-861
, which required all Georgia welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits (previously
). In light of a similar bill in Florida being suspended by a federal judge in late 2011
, the ultimate fate of Georgia's HB-861 remains unknown
. In June 2012, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) proposed an amendment to the federal Farm Bill designed to cut $322 billion in SNAP funding; the amendment was defeated
in a 65-33 vote.
And just last month, the Tennessee state legislature advanced a bill that would have reduced TANF
(cash) benefits paid to parents by 30% if their children failed to maintain a state-approved level of scholastic performance (previously
). The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) withdrew it from consideration
after being publicly shamed by an 8-year-old constitutent, Aamira Fetuga.
* SNAP eligibility levels, sorted by household size and maximum monthly income
* Nearly 15% -- almost 47 million -- of the United States' 312 million citizens received SNAP benefits in CY 2012
* In FY 2012, the average monthly benefit paid to an individual SNAP recipient in Wisconsin was $116.50
. SNAP beneficiaries in Guam and Hawaii get the most at $216.14 and $213.65 per month, respectively, while Minnesota and Wisconsin come in at the bottom of the pack at $115.91 and $116.50 per month, respectively.
* In 2011, the USDA wrote a position paper decrying attempts to restrict food purchases made with SNAP benefits [PDF]
, stating in part, "No clear standards exist for defining foods as good or bad, or healthy or not healthy."
* USDA Food and Nutrition Service SNAP Program Data
, including interactive maps and annual data at the state and national level.
* Learn more about how amendments to the annual federal Farm Bill can affect SNAP benefits
* The history of SNAP
* More previously on MeFi: Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker spent a week living on food stamps
* South Carolina's legislature has inserted a clause into the 2013-2014 state budget that would ban Gov. Nikki Haley's office and mansion from purchasing junk food with taxpayer money
* Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel poll: "Should food stamps be used on junk food?