Feeding Our Future: Action at the legislature

The alleged Feeding Our Future scandal is having an impact on the work at the State Legislature as they look to wind up their session next month.

In the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the House education omnibus bill, HF 4300, includes three provisions addressing participation in the federal free-food programs Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

The current version of HF 4300 (beginning page 201, line 22) would prohibit a site from transferring between sponsor organizations more frequently than once per year.

The bill would require nonprofits to train staff in how to operate the program before applying to participate. You will recall that many of the nonprofits enlisted as site hosts were newly created entities with no track record.

Most importantly, the bill would prohibit a new food distribution site from being approved within a half-mile of an existing site. Readers will recall that a single address in St. Paul hosted no fewer than ten free-food operations.

The Republicans in control of the state Senate are looking at the role of nonprofits more broadly. To that end, they have introduced a bill to require some much-needed accountability. SF 4359 was introduced last week by state Sen. Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake), who is also a candidate for governor this year.

The bill would require a nonprofit to exist for two years before participating in state programs involving public safety, childcare, or food distribution. It would cap the salaries of nonprofit leaders and would impose third-party auditing requirements. Nonprofits with board members who are state employees or elected officials would not be allowed to access state contracts. The bill would also require criminal background checks of participating nonprofit employees.

At the federal Level, Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis) is looking to extend the national school lunch program to cover every child.

Four meals a day doesn’t leave much time left over for family interactions. HR 3115 was introduced by Rep. Omar in May 2021. Its Senate companion bill, S. 1530, was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). Neither bill has advanced as a stand-alone measure.