Alcaraz v. Block

Decision Date02 November 1984
Docket NumberNos. 83-2137,83-2149 and 83-2483,s. 83-2137
Citation746 F.2d 593
Parties20 Ed. Law Rep. 1094 Tomas ALCARAZ, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. John R. BLOCK, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Defendant-Appellant. Wilson RILES, Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, Albert Wood, Plaintiffs- Appellees, v. John R. BLOCK, Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), Robert Leard, Administrator of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, and R. Hicks Elmore, Regional Administrator of USDA's Food and Nutrition Service, Defendants-Appellants. Tomas ALCARAZ, Latino Unidos Para Mejor Education (Lupme), Robert Losoya, Jose Luis Ladesma, Welfare Recipients League of Santa Clara County, Plaintiffs- Appellants, v. John R. BLOCK, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture, Defendant- Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Robert M. Teets, Jr., San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellees.

N. Eugene Hill, Sacramento, Cal., Anthony J. Steinmeyer, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Riles.

Mark H. Gallant, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for defendant-appellant.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Before WISDOM, * WALLACE, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.

WALLACE, Circuit Judge:

These consolidated appeals and cross-appeals from summary judgment require us to assess various constitutional, statutory, and procedural challenges to section 803 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, Pub.L. No. 97-35, 95 Stat. 357, 524-26 (OBRA), and its implementation by the United States Department of Agriculture (Department) through the Food and Nutrition Service (Service). We have jurisdiction over the final judgments eventually rendered in all the cases under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291, and we reverse on the cross-appeals by the Department's Secretary, Block (Secretary). We affirm the judgments on the appeals by the Alcaraz class plaintiffs and by Riles, the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the California State Department of Education (Superintendent).


In 1946, our post-war Congress spun the first strand of what has become a complex legislative and administrative web of federal statutory school children's meal entitlement programs run through the states, the National School Lunch Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1751-1769c (Lunch Act). Codifying a politically favorable, Depression-era way of creating agricultural markets, see 12 N. Harl, Agricultural Law Sec. 101.01 (1983), Congress enacted the law "as a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation's children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food, by assisting the States, through grants-in-aid and other means, in providing ... nonprofit school-lunch programs." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1751; see Briggs v. Kerrigan, 307 F.Supp. 295, 300 (D.Mass.1969) ("The purpose of creating a substantial agricultural market would be effectuated by the widest participation possible. The more children involved, the greater the potential market."), aff'd, 431 F.2d 967 (1st Cir.1970). See generally Annot., 14 A.L.R.Fed. 634 (1973 & Supp.1983). The Lunch Act delegates authority to the Secretary to carry out its provisions, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1752, in particular, to implement the national school lunch program, id. Secs. 1751-1760.

Driven by similar concerns, as well as by evidence that nutrition and children's learning capacities were linked, Congress supplemented the Lunch Act and its programs with the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, as amended, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1771-1789 (Nutrition Act). See H.R.Rep. No. 1802, 89th Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1966 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News at 3180. Among other things, the Nutrition Act made available additional lunch subsidies, created a program "to encourage consumption of fluid milk," 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1772, and started a school breakfast program, id. Sec. 1773. Tied in with the Lunch Act programs, the Secretary also implements these Nutrition Act programs, administered through the states. Id. Sec. 1771.

Five children's food programs spawned by the two statutes are relevant to this litigation. Before sketching their details, we explain in rough outline the mode of cooperative federalism in which the Department administered the programs. See 7 C.F.R. Parts 210-245 (1984). Nationally, the Department directs the various food projects through its Food and Nutrition Service. Id. Sec. 210.3(a) (1984). Virtually every state has an agency which contracts with the Department to administer some or all of the programs locally, called the "State educational agency." Id. Sec. 210.2(t) (1984). In California, that agency is the State Department of Education. The Service's regional office plays this role in states where there is no such agency. Id. Sec. 210.3(b)-(b-1) (1984). The State Department of Education contracts with local school food authorities, id. Sec. 210.8(e) (1984), providing them with annual announcements as to eligibility guidelines, id. Sec. 245.3(a) (1984), and monitors program compliance. Id. Sec. 210.14 (1984). Local food authorities convey income eligibility information and distribute application forms to parents and guardians on or before school's opening. Id. Secs. 245.5(a), 245.6(a) (1984). The eligibility determination process generally begins with Department rulemaking setting forth household income standards, and culminates in individual eligibility determinations.

In one of the actions consolidated before us, the Superintendent challenges the Department's implementation of OBRA with respect to various meal programs in California. Annual contracts between the Department, the State Department of Education, and local sponsors require adherence to the Department's published and unpublished rules and directives, and breach can entail fiscal sanctions.


Three of those five food projects we shall collectively call the school meals program. That program comprises the national school lunch program created in sections 2-12 of the Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1751-1760, and the special milk and school breakfast programs authorized in Nutrition Act sections 3-4, 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1772-1773. Through interrelated eligibility guidelines, 7 C.F.R. Part 245 (1984), children in participating schools qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches under Lunch Act section 9, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1758, because their households meet the income eligibility threshold, id. Sec. 1758(b)(1)(A) and (B), may also get free milk and free or reduced-price breakfasts under Nutrition Act sections 3, 4(e), id. Secs. 1772, 1773(e). States awarded grants-in-aid from the Department are reimbursed at statutory rates based on the number of milks or meals served, id. Sec. 1753 (reimbursement formula).


The fourth, the summer food service program (Summer Program), authorized by section 13 of the Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1761, grew directly out of the school meals program in 1978, to continue food support to school-aged children during summer or long school vacations. This is the only program in California conducted through the Service's regional office, which selects and monitors local sponsors according to statutory criteria. The sponsors are "camps," id., or other nonprofit groups providing regularly scheduled food service for children in economically depressed areas, id. Sec. 1761(a)(3)(c). Like schools, the camps or sponsors must make information about income guidelines available to the public.


The fifth program, the child care food program (Care Program), was created in 1975 by section 17 of the Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1766, to extend free or reduced-price meals to eligible participants in child care centers and similar nonresidential institutions. See generally 12 N. Harl, supra Sec. 101.06. The Service makes federal grants to the State Department of Education, which uses the funds to pay the claims of qualifying child care centers, gauged by the number of meals served to eligible children. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1766(f)(2)(A). Care Program local sponsors also must document household size and income levels of program beneficiaries as a condition of federal reimbursement. See generally 7 C.F.R. Part 226 (1984).


On August 13, 1981, against this statutory and administrative legal landscape, Congress enacted OBRA. OBRA significantly altered that landscape: "[it] was the product of a major, highly publicized, and vigorously debated effort by Congress and the President to reverse the growth of federal spending by systematically reducing the level of expenditures in a wide range of federal programs." Philadelphia Citizens in Action v. Schweiker, 669 F.2d 877, 878 (3d Cir.1982). Broadly remedial, OBRA attempted "to reduce federal spending and restore balance to our dual system of government," In re Reynolds, 726 F.2d 1420, 1425 (9th Cir.1984) (Wallace, J., concurring), cutting a broad swath through the thicket of federal spending and making amendatory inroads in several federal entitlement programs.

OBRA's impact on the various food programs outlined above is the crux of these lawsuits. Title VIII of OBRA, Pub.L. No. 97-35, Secs. 801-820, 95 Stat. 357, 521-35 (1981), ushered urgent full-scale fiscal and regulatory reforms into school lunch and child nutrition programs, amending various sections of the Lunch Act and the Nutrition Act. Legislative history shows that OBRA's changes in the food programs were "designed to target limited resources toward those children most in need, while at the same time reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens ... [to] help to reduce local costs and thereby mitigate the impact of the funding reductions." See S.Rep. No. 97-139, 97th Cong., 1st Sess. 75, reprinted in 1981 U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 396, 464. Acting under pressure, see, e.g., Williams v....

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