The Massachusetts Vitamin Litigation Project resulted in the 2002 partial settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by the law firm of Ellis and Rapacki on behalf of residents of the Commonwealth who purchased indirect vitamin products1 during the period from 1990 through 1999. In return for the release of claims, the defendants (a group of pharmaceutical manufacturers) agreed to pay a settlement amount of more than $19 million to be allocated to charitable organizations providing food and nutrition programs in Massachusetts. An additional $2.5 million in settlement funds was subsequently approved.
A total of 572 grants ranging from $1,000 to over $2.4 million were awarded to Massachusetts organizations in three waves: November 2002, June 2003, and December 2003. Of these projects, most (279) used their funds for capital improvements, 161 for a programmatic component, 127 for food purchases, and 3 for research. The large proportion of funding for capital improvement projects was intentional. As the settlement money constituted a one-time opportunity to strengthen organizations that address hunger and nutrition needs across a variety of populations and locations in Massachusetts, the law form of Ellis and Rapacki was particularly focused on building capacity and increasing the sustainability of these programs. To this end, Ellis and Rapacki considered not only the immediate and direct need for food, but also the - often neglected - infrastructure that is a backbone of aid efforts in general. By replacing failing equipment, providing vans to deliver food, building shelves, adding freezers, improving access for the physically challenged, the hope was to positively impact the ability of aid organizations to do their work now and in the future.
The Center for Social Policy was selected by Ellis & Rapacki and approved by the Court to conduct a programmatic audit of the Vitamin Litigation Project. The audit was a process study that served two key functions. First, the audit served a descriptive function, portraying to the Massachusetts Superior Court what happened in the funded projects for purposes of accountability. Second, the study served an evaluative function by documenting lessons learned regarding the implementation and perceived outcomes of food and nutrition projects. The audit focused only on projects with a programmatic component and did not include projects focused exclusively on capital expenditures or food purchase.
The audit had two major components. The first was the collection and analysis of reports from the funded projects. All grantees were required to submit to Ellis & Rapacki final reports responding to five questions in the Associated Grantmakers Common Report Form, and the vast majority of projects complied.
The second component of the audit was site visits with a subset of 45 of the funded projects, which included interviews with the directors of the organizations and/or key program staff. The site visits were conducted between October 2003 and January 2005 and occurred during various phases of program implementation, mostly six to nine month after grant receipt.
Manning, Colleen; Meschede, Tatjana; and Werby, Elaine, "A Programmatic Audit of the Massachusetts Vitamin Litigation Project Final Report" (2007). Center for Social Policy Publications. 14.