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RODWAY v. USDA

December 12, 1973

Miriam RODWAY et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE et al., Defendants


John H. Pratt, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PRATT

JOHN H. PRATT, District Judge.

Preliminary Statement

 This action arises on cross-motions for summary judgment and raises issues concerning the administration of the Food Stamp Program (hereinafter referred to as "the program"), authorized by the Food Stamp Act of 1964, as amended, 7 U.S.C. ยงยง 2011-2026 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). The program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (hereinafter referred to as "the Department").

 The purpose of the program is to provide low-income households the opportunity to obtain nutritionally adequate diets. This is accomplished by issuing to eligible households coupon allotments which have a monetary value greater than the charge, if any, which such households must pay for their allotments. Under the program, all eligible households of a given size receive a coupon allotment having the same monetary value.

 The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a decision dated July 10, 1973, reversed the order of this Court granting defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of mootness. The case was remanded to this Court for further proceedings. Rodway v. United States Department of Agriculture, 157 U.S. App. D.C., 133, 482 F.2d 722.

 Plaintiffs' position in this litigation is founded upon two primary bases. First, plaintiffs allege the Economy Food Plan upon which the coupon allotments under the program are based does not constitute a nutritionally adequate diet. Second, plaintiffs allege the coupon allotments established by the Department are not adequate to permit participants in the program to purchase the quantities and types of food recommended in the Economy Food Plan. As an adjunct to their second position, plaintiffs assert the cost of foods recommended in the Economy Plan is higher in the Northeast than in other regions of the United States.

 Annual Adjustment of Coupon Allotments

 With respect to plaintiffs' second basis for seeking relief, i.e., allotments levels are below the cost of the Economy Plan, the parties agree the issue is appropriate for resolution by summary judgment.

 Plaintiffs have submitted evidence, based upon statistics issued by the Department, purporting to show coupon allotments presently in effect are inadequate to purchase food constituting the Economy Food Plan at the prices as of August, 1973. While this may well be the case, it is not a relevant criterion for determining whether defendants' actions, challenged herein, are in compliance with the provisions of the Act. The Act does not require that the value of the coupon allotment be, at all times, sufficient to purchase the Economy Food Plan. Until its recent amendment *fn1" section 7(a) of the Act *fn2" read as follows:

 
"The face value of the coupon allotment which State agencies shall be authorized to issue to any households certified as eligible to participate in the food stamp program shall be in such amount as the Secretary determines to be the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet, adjusted annually to reflect changes in the prices of food published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor." (Emphasis added)

 Thus, the Act, as originally enacted, contemplated annual adjustment of coupon allotments. Pursuant to this authority, the Department established a coupon allotment for a hypothetical family of four at $108, effective July 1, 1971. The $108 allotment was based upon the price of food as of December, 1970. Each year since, the Department has adjusted the allotment annually, effective as of July 1 each year, on the basis of the price of food as of the preceding December.

 It necessarily follows that coupon allotments in effect during a year did not precisely reflect changes in the cost of food occurring during the year. In this regard, the 1973 amendments (footnote 1, supra) amended section 7(a) of the Act to provide for semiannual adjustments of coupon allotments. Section 3(m) of the 1973 Act, amended section 7(a) of the Act as follows:

 
"The face value of the coupon allotment which State agencies shall be authorized to issue to any households certified as eligible to participate in the food stamp program shall be in such amount as the Secretary determines to be the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet, adjusted semiannually by the nearest dollar increment that is a multiple of two to reflect changes in the prices of food published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor to be implemented commencing with the allotments of January 1, 1974, incorporating the changes in the prices of food through August 31, 1973, but in no event shall such adjustments be made for households of a given size unless the increase in face value of the coupon allotment for such households, as calculated above, is a minimum of $2.00." *fn3" (Emphasis added) 87 Stat. 248.

 On November 1, 1973, the Department published in the Federal Register new tables *fn4" governing coupon issuance which reflect the provisions of ...


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