Fresh for Processing
Late in 2015, a bill was introduced into the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly that was advertised as a way to rescue millions of pounds of fresh, healthy food from farms and deliver it to your local food pantries. On the surface this sounds like a wonderful idea. And it is. Hunger Task Force believes that everyone has a right to adequate food with dignity. However, the way the bill is written, none of this would actually happen.
We are led to believe that healthy, fresh, nutritious food would be rescued from farms and given to hungry families all for free. This seeks to address the millions of pounds of produce that goes to waste in the fields and works to provide a solution where the food can be used to address hunger. Unfortunately, the reality of the bill is much different than what is being advertised.
Perception: This bill, Assembly Bill 611, would rescue millions of pounds of food for the hungry.
Reality: The bill has no requirement that the food comes from farms and has no benchmarks on the amount of food that must be rescued. $1 million of taxpayer dollars would be spent without any accountability or oversight on program efficiency or operation. There is no guarantee that farmers would receive payment, or what that payment would be. We have no assurances that farmers would be reimbursed fairly or in a timely manner.
Perception: Assembly Bill 611 provides fresh, healthy & nutritious food.
Reality: The bill does not require that the food is fresh. There is no food safety built into the bill and we have no assurances that the food comes from a farm at all. Instead, the language says that AB611 “promotes the donation of excess and unmarketable farms and food products from farms and food processing facilities.” The food would instead be grown for canning and sent to be processed, adding preservatives, salt & sugar. There is no requirement for any nutrition label, meaning families would get a can that looks like this:
Perception: Assembly Bill 611 helps food pantries across Wisconsin.
Reality: The food would only be available to a select number of food pantries. The participating pantries would be required to sign a contract with a national organization that requires membership fees, and requires that food pantries purchase a certain amount of food annually to continue being a member. Members are typically then prohibited from contacting their own donors. And the countless food pantries that do not wish to be members would have no access to the food that the program would provide.
Perception: Wisconsin food would only go to Wisconsin families.
Reality: Three of the food banks that would receive state money are based in Minnesota and serve food pantries in Minnesota. There’s nothing in the bill that keeps the food in Wisconsin. Many Wisconsin farms have existing relationships with their local food pantry. Now that farm would be incentivized to sell the food away to a third party and the pantry would only be able to receive the food if they signed a contract to become a member of another organization.
This bill was advertised as a win-win. But if the farmer isn’t assured to get reimbursed, if the food pantry is forced to sign away their donors and ideals in a contract, and if the families that receive the food receive formerly fresh, now processed food added with unknown amounts of salt and sugar, if the Wisconsin taxpayer is footing the bill for all of this….who is the groups that are “winning” in this bill?
Tell your Representative and Senator that this is a bad idea for Wisconsin. TAKE ACTION NOW