A pioneering high school teacher and Bush Fellow linked to Feeding Our Future scandal

Although he has not been charged with or accused of any wrongdoing in the case, the name Abdirizak Diis features prominently in a key document for the upcoming free-food trial.

The Federal trial will begin Monday morning of eight defendants associated with a now-defunct Shakopee restaurant, Empire Cuisine & Market. Diis himself is not a defendant, nor has his name appeared in any indictment or search warrant made public in the trial.

The document in question is the 119-page exhibit list filed by prosecutors.

The name Abdirizak M. Diis appears six times on the exhibit list in connection with his personal banking records (listed as exhibits O-177 through O-182).

Who is he? Diis wears many hats. He may be best known as one of the newest (2023) recipients of a prestigious Bush Fellowship, awarded annually by the St. Paul-based Bush Foundation. The Foundation is a billion-dollar nonprofit created to distribute the fortune of one of the 3M founders.

His page on the Bush Foundation website mentions the following,

An educator in Minneapolis Public Schools, he created the first Somali ethnic studies curriculum in the country. He believes that the voices of immigrant families must be elevated in the educational system to reduce inequities. 

In addition to his Bush Fellowship, Diis’ LinkedIn page includes his roles as executive director of the nonprofit Somali Media of Minnesota and a current social studies teacher for a public high school in Minneapolis.

LinkedIn also mentions his role as executive director of the As-Sunnah Islamic Center, located in St. Paul

According to records maintained by the MN Secretary of State’s office, As-Sunnah was incorporated as a nonprofit in 2016. It received tax-exempt status from the IRS the following year. We have been unable to locate any tax returns filed by the organization. We have also been unable to locate the nonprofit on the list of charities maintained by the state Attorney General’s office.

As its executive director, Diis has been quoted in new stories regarding As-Sunnah.

As-Sunnah itself appears on the trial exhibit list 35 times. The As-Sunnah center in St. Paul served as a distribution site for the free-food program under the sponsorship of the St. Paul-based nonprofit Partners in Nutrition, d/b/a Partners in Quality Care (exhibits C-43 to C-57). At its peak, the site was registered to serve a maximum 2,100 children.

Records maintained by the state Dept. of Education (MDE) indicate that the site’s summer feeding effort (under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was originally catered by a now-defunct pizza parlor located on Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis. The site later switched to Empire Cuisine as its food vendor.

Exhibits O-170 to O-174 include banking records for As-Sunnah. Exhibits J-126 and J-127 are purchase records related to the As-Sunnah address in St. Paul.

Exhibits O-183 and O-184 appear to relate to the banking records of a second individual associated with As-Sunnah.

A company called Diis Transporation Inc. is mentioned four times on the exhibit list. Records indicate that this company was incorporated by Abdirizak Diis in July 2020.

Moonshine Investment Group Corporations (not a typo) is also mentioned four times on the Exhibit list. This company was also incorporated by Diis in July 2020.

As a journalist himself, Diis has covered significant local news stories, even reporting news on his own nonprofit.

Exhibits related to Diis may or may not be introduced in the upcoming trial. To repeat, neither Diis nor any of the organizations named above have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Coincidences abound!