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Supreme Court Rules that Store-Level SNAP Data is Exempt from FOIA


On Monday, following a year-long legal fight, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to prevent the release of store-level data related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), in 2011, the Sioux Falls newspaper, the Argus Leader, demanded USDA provide the names and addresses of all retail stores that participate in SNAP, along with each store’s annual SNAP redemption data.

The Food Marketing Institute and the National Grocers Association protested that the release of such data would be detrimental to stores. After hearing oral arguments on April 22, the Supreme Court concluded that store-level data is confidential and exempt from FOIA. Click here to read the ruling.

Justice Neil Gorsuch explained that the release of the information would be harmful, saying “...retailers use models of consumer behavior to help choose new store locations and to plan sales strategies. Competitors’ estimated sales volumes represent an important component of these models and can be time-consuming and expensive to generate. And a model’s accuracy and utility increase significantly if it includes a rival’s actual sales data rather than mere estimates. So disclosure of store-level SNAP data could create a windfall for competitors; Stores with high SNAP redemptions could see increased competition for SNAP customers from existing competitors, new market entrants could use SNAP data to determine where to build their stores, and SNAP-redemption data could be used to discern a rival retailer’s overall sales and develop strategies to win some of that business too.”

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