United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
KELVIN A. CANADA, Plaintiff,
NATARCHA GREGG, et al., Defendants.
A. Canada, Pro Se Plaintiff;
Hull Davidson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the
Attorney General, Richmond, Virginia, for Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Jones United States District Judge
plaintiff, Kelvin A. Canada, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons
Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc to
2000cc-5. Canada asserts that October 2015 changes to the
religious diet provided to him by the Virginia Department of
Corrections (“VDOC”) lacked sufficient nutrition
and calories, causing him to suffer severe weight loss. After
review of the record, I conclude that the defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted.
records indicate that Canada is serving a life term in
prison, imposed by a Virginia court. His claims in this
action arose while he was incarcerated in Virginia, first at
Red Onion State Prison (“Red Onion”) and later at
Wallens Ridge State Prison (“Wallens Ridge”). On
June 16, 2017, shortly after he filed this civil action,
Canada was transferred to a prison in Rhode Island and is now
incarcerated in South Carolina.
accommodate Canada's stated Islamic dietary beliefs, VDOC
officials approved him to receive the Common Fare diet,
starting in 2004. Common Fare is designed to meet all known
religious dietary restrictions that cannot be met through the
regular VDOC inmate menus. Common Fare meals exclude pork and
pork derivatives and include only food items certified as
kosher or halal, or otherwise consistent with these religious
dietary requirements. Food storage, preparation, and serving,
and cleaning of the kitchen and trays are compliant with all
halal and kosher requirements. The VDOC's Food Service
Dietician, N. Gregg, writes and approves four weeks of Common
Fare menus for use by VDOC facilities.
October 2015, the Common Fare menu changed from all cold
foods to both hot and cold foods. Canada alleges that before
this menu change, all three of his daily Common Fare meals
included four slices of bread and fresh fruit, and the diet
met his nutritional needs. He complains that the 2015 menu
change “created an immense dissipation in the daily
caloric intake and portions served.” Compl. ¶ 4,
ECF No. 1. He blames this nutritional deficiency on fewer
bread slices, less fresh fruit, soybeans instead of tuna
fish, and smaller food portions overall under the new menu.
Canada alleges that the food service directors at Red Onion
and Wallens Ridge also sometimes served rotten fruits and
vegetables that he could not eat.
claims that after the Common Fare menu change, he began
losing weight and experiencing “constant migraine
headaches.” Id. at ¶ 8. He signed up for
sick call to find out about the weight loss. Dr. Smith
examined Canada and did blood work to test for hepatitis and
diabetes. The doctor concluded that Canada “had no
physical illness that was responsible for [his] weight
los[s].” Id. at ¶ 10. Canada claims that
he weighed 195 pounds before the menu change and by April
2016, he weighed 152 pounds. After his transfer out-of-state,
he regained all the weight he had lost within eight months.
states that the new Common Fare menu cycle provides inmates
with a daily average of 2600 calories, a slight change from
the 2900 calories provided under the previous menu cycle of
only cold foods. She also reports that the current Common
Fare diet meets or exceeds the recommended dietary allowances
as defined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National
Academy of Sciences. Prison food service staff are to measure
the food portions served to inmates to meet the quantities
indicated on the Common Fare menus that Gregg has approved.
denies that the new Common Fare menu provides reduced food
portions overall. She states that the only portion change was
the amount of bread served. Where inmates might have received
four slices for certain meals under the old menu, they now
receive two slices and/or some other starch item such as rice
or potatoes. The new menu also includes cooked tuna cakes and
cold tuna salad.
Stallard, Food Service Director at Wallens Ridge, has sworn
in an affidavit supporting the defendants' motion that
the prison receives fresh fruits and vegetables weekly.
Stallard or other staff check all outgoing Common Fare trays
to ensure that “[n]o spoiled, rotten fruits or
vegetables are served” to inmates. Stallard Aff. ¶
5, ECF No. 33-2.
defendants do not dispute that Canada lost more than thirty
pounds between October 2015 and the time he filed this case
on June 8, 2016. They offer evidence that at five feet ten
inches tall, Canada was overweight before the Common Fare
menu change, according to the U.S. National Institute of
Health (“NIH”). At 162 pounds, Canada's body
mass index (“BMI”) was 23.2, within the normal
range, while at 199 pounds, Canada's BMI was 28.6, within
the overweight range. V. Phipps, a nurse who reviewed
Canada's medical chart, states that it includes no
documentation that he complained to medical staff about
migraine headaches after the menu change.
sues Gregg, the Food Service Directors at Red Onion and
Wallens Ridge, and VDOC Director Harold Clarke. In his
Complaint, Canada seeks monetary damages for alleged
violations of his rights under RLUIPA and the First and
Eighth Amendments. He claims that the modified VDOC Common
Fare diet “d[id] not accommodate his religious
prerequisite” and caused him to lose more than forty
pounds and to suffer “health problems and migraine