Bread for the City, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group, lost its legal appeal seeking to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to spend more on food in the Emergency Food Assistance Program Friday.
The USDA maintained that the 2014 Farm Bill authorized it to spend $327 million on the food program for fiscal year 2015. The lawsuit said an inflation factor, plus increases approved by Congress should really bring the total to $602 million.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that spending level. “There is no good explanation for why Congress, after requiring the expenditure of $277 million twice in fiscal year 2015, would tack on another $50 million, as the plaintiff claims,” the court said. “And there is no explanation for why Congress would retain the inflation adjustment while increasing spending during fiscal years 2015 to 2018 by hundreds of millions of dollars, amounts far exceeding any possible loss of purchasing power through inflation,” wrote Judge Raymond Randolph.
Bread for the City serves roughly 5,000 households a month. It’s food budget is about $2 million a year. The group’s CEO George Jones has said that more than 20,000 people a year through its food pantries in the area.
Under the USDA program, the department buys surplus food and distributes it to the states. D.C. is treated like a state. The USDA originally had $250 million plus an inflation adjustment of $27 million. The nonprofit argued that it was a stand-alone amount that required the department to add a Congressionally authorized $50 million more – $327 million. And then added another $277 million again to reach $604 million for 2015.
The court rejected that approach.
Case: Bread for the City v. USDA, No. 15-1591