Feeding Our Future: Empire Cuisine (re)visited

In which your correspondent ventures south of the river.

The only two arrests made in connection to the Feeding Our Future scandal involve the two co-owners of the Empire Cuisine and Market in Shakopee. Both were arrested on passport fraud as they tried to flee the country. At last report, both men — Abdiaziz Farah and Mohamed Jama Ismail — are said to be in custody in the Sherburne County jail. Not one person has been arrested or charged in the underlying fraud claimed by the FBI in the case.

We’re happy to report that, in their absence, their restaurant is open and doing brisk business on this early summer holiday afternoon.

The sign near the front door announces “We accept EBT & WIC”

Back in late March, the restaurant was the subject of FBI surveillance efforts centered on Farah. The restaurant occupies one end of a commercial building in Shakopee. A tire store takes up most of the building. The site is squeezed in between an American Legion Post on one side and a VFW post on the other.

In the summer of 2020, the restaurant itself was registered as a free-food distribution site, with a relatively modest capacity of 600 children per day. More improbably, in the summer of 2021, the above facility was said to cater for 16,000 per day at 14 locations around the metro area.

Most of the food distribution sites served by Empire were sponsored, not by Feeding Our Future, but by the rival nonprofit network Partners in Nutrition. It’s been reported by Sahan Journal that Feeding Our Future claims it cut ties to Empire in 2021 “for allegedly serving bad food.”

Regardless, the stream of customers emerging this afternoon all appeared to be pleased with Empire’s offerings. Helpfully, a sign next to the front door announces that “We Accept EBT & WIC.” The food may no longer be free, but at least the taxpayer in chipping in.

The sign says “OPEN”