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MADISON - A local lawmaker is one of several in the Legislature fighting for a state snack.

Wisconsin doesn't have a state snack, but it soon could thanks to a group of students from Wauwatosa who took their lessons from state government class seriously and brought their idea to their legislator.

In a bipartisan effort, lawmakers, including Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Randall, signed on to a bill introduced earlier this month by Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, that would designate cheese as the state snack. That's right. It isn't already.

Should Sullivan's bill make it to Gov. Jim Doyle's desk, the designation would grant to cheese a place in the annals of Wisconsin history alongside such other venerated state symbols as the polka (state dance), Antigo silt loam (state soil) and the trilobite (state fossil).

Kerkman said she has a soft spot for children learning about the legislative process in school, which is one of the reasons she signed her name to the bill.

"It was one of those unique bills. These kids had an idea and I wanted to support it," Kerkman said. "Our job as legislators is to be diverse. If I can promote our homegrown products, I'll do it."

Kerkman represents the town and city of Burlington.

Five years ago, Kerkman helped a group of students from Trevor in their effort to make the cranberry Wisconsin's state fruit.

The effort to get cheese added to the list of state symbols dates back to 2006 when a group of students at a Wauwatosa elementary school started brainstorming ideas for a state snack, said Andrea Gage, a Sullivan staffer.

"I think cheese was the front-runner as the state snack is concerned," Gage said.

Which seems only fitting since Wisconsin's 1,200 cheese makers make 600 varieties of cheese and produce 25 percent of all cheese in the United States, according to Gage.

"Even if you're not the biggest cheese fan, when then you think of Wisconsin you think cheese," Gage said.

The bill, which is working its way through the Legislature, already has the support of the state Dairy Business Association and the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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