1.2 Million Eggs Donated to NYC Food Banks as Part of Price Gouging Settlement
A lot of press releases posted online yesterday were lame attempts at April Fool's jokes, but New York Attorney General Letitia James wasn't kidding at all when she announced that she had acquired 1.2 million eggs—more than 100,000 cartons' worth—for food banks, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens throughout the state.
The seven-figure egg haul was part of a settlement that resolves a price-gouging lawsuit that James filed against Hillandale Farms Corporation last year. In addition to the massive donation, the Ohio and Pennsylvania-based egg producer has also promised to stop price-gouging retailers who purchase its eggs.
"As New Yorkers scrambled to stock up on food, one of the nation's largest egg producers raised prices to unprecedented levels and made it harder for New Yorkers to feed their families," James said in an egg pun-filled statement. "Hillandale may have run afoul of our state's price gouging laws and hatched a plan that targeted our state's most vulnerable in its darkest hour, but, today, we're delivering 1.2 million eggs to feed hungry New Yorkers and make things right."
According to the lawsuit, Hillandale allegedly increased the prices of its eggs starting in the early days of the pandemic. In one example included in the legal filing, the cost of a dozen eggs at one Western Beef Supermarket location jumped from $0.59 in January to $2.93 just over two months later. The lawsuit also alleged that Hillandale significantly hiked its prices on eggs that were sold at Associated Supermarkets, BJ's Wholesale Club, Stop & Shop, at two military bases, and in the commissary stores at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. (In the latter case, Hillandale cranked its prices from $0.84 cents per dozen in January to $3.15 per dozen in April.)
And that's just what Hillandale charged the stores themselves: the prices for shoppers were even higher. One Western Beef Supermarket customer complained to the Attorney General's Office that they'd had to pay $5.49 for a dozen eggs. "This location serves low income families who, due to the current pandemic emergency, have most likely lost what little income they have," the shopper's complaint read. "Disgraceful."
According to James' calculations, Hillandale made an extra $4 million during last March and April alone, all because of its alleged willingness to "unlawfully increase" the price of eggs. "In less than two months, Hillandale made millions by cheating our most vulnerable communities and our servicemembers, actions that are both unlawful and truly rotten," she said last August. "I will always stand up for working people, especially when they are taken advantage of by corporate greed."
The lawsuit's resolution—and the egg donation—was praised by representatives for Long Island Cares, Island Harvest Food Bank, and other organizations that will distribute the eggs. "At a time when our city is still reeling from COVID-19, a donation like this will allow us to provide our network of nearly 1,000 soup kitchens and food pantries across the five boroughs with a sustainable source of protein," Leslie Gordon, the President and CEO of Food Bank for New York City, said.
"We project that nearly 1.6 million New Yorkers will be facing food insecurity in 2021 due to the continued economic fallout of the pandemic, and this donation will make a huge impact in serving our most vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table."