AUGUSTA — Attorney General Janet T. Mills announced Tuesday that $135,000 in proceeds from a court case will help feed the hungry in Maine.
The funds — the result from resolution of a price-fixing case against major vitamin companies — will be donated to the Good Shepherd Food Bank. The Auburn-based non-profit is the state’s largest distributor of emergency food.
A small portion of the settlement funds also will go to the State’s Emergency Food Assistance Program to purchase food for low-income Mainers, Mills said in a press release.
The money stems from a multi-state lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by attorneys general in 22 states against 10 separate vitamin manufacturers, Mills said. This is the second lawsuit emerging from the international price-fixing scheme by the firms.
“I can think of no better use for this money than to feed the hungry at a time when our state is reeling from the economic downturn,” she said. “When people are losing their jobs, their homes and their dreams due to a national recession, this money can provide some small comfort to those in need.”
Both suits alleged a price-fixing conspiracy among vitamin manufacturers, which indirectly raised the cost of food between 1988 and 2000, the attorney general said. Because the majority of food items sold commercially contain vitamin products, the increase in the price of supplements resulted in higher prices for consumers across the country.
The latest settlement approved by the court is to compensate the public for the high price of food products during the more than 10 years of the price-fixing activities. Due to the impracticality of providing such a small rebate to so many consumers, the settlement allows the proceeds to be distributed to programs that benefit and improve the health or nutrition of Maine consumers.
The court approved Mills’ request to use the money for emergency hunger relief.
The Good Shepherd Food Bank will use the funds primarily to buy Maine-grown produce and Maine-processed food for distribution throughout the state. The Emergency Food Assistance Program also will purchase emergency food stores for low-income Mainers.