Feeding Our Future: More dogs not barking

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a request in early March asking that a Dakota County court oversee the dissolution of the free-food nonprofit Feeding Our Future. Last Monday, the court agreed.

The St. Anthony-based nonprofit was the subject of an FBI raid in January and was subsequently suspended from participating in federal food programs overseen by the state’s Department of Education (MDE). In February, the nonprofit’s board decided to wind up the company.

A state judge ruled last Monday that the court would indeed oversee the dissolution of the nonprofit Feeding Our Future, but pushed further decisions off until a July review.

The Star Tribune article on the court proceedings mentions that Feeding Our Future has not operated since the FBI raids in January, and has laid off 65 workers.

Layoffs of that scale frequently make the local news. You would think that the sudden collapse of the free-food industry would have left more of a mark on the local economy.

Federal law requires prior notice be given when an employer lays off more than 100 workers. Employers with more than 50 workers are required to report large layoffs to the state’s dislocated worker program. There is no report listed for Feeding Our Future for 2022.

Neither are there any layoff reports for any of the three free-food networks shut down by the Department of Education.

The nonprofits shut down by MDE include Feeding Our Future, Partners in Nutrition (d/b/a Partners in Quality Care) and Youth Leadership Academy (d/b/a Gar Gaar Family Services).

Feeding Our Future and Partners in Nutrition were both founded in 2016. Youth Leadership Academy was founded in November 2020.

These three nonprofits were the largest Minnesota distributors of free food under the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). MDE records show the following amounts paid out to the three nonprofits since each company’s inception.

The above table shows the rapid growth of each of the three largest free-food nonprofits. The table also shows the massive increase of their relative share of the two programs CACFP and SFSP.

In Fiscal Year 2021, the three nonprofit networks represented more than a third of the total program spending, with schools and daycares representing the bulk of the rest. In the current Fiscal Year 2022, the three make up closer to two-thirds of the total. That number will drop, of course, with the three still suspended from program participation and with the Fiscal Year still having some months to run.

Collectively, the three nonprofits represented an enterprise with more than $300 million per year in revenue. The sudden suspension of these entities should have resulted in significant economic disruptions, in addition to the sudden absence of a primary food source for a reported 200,000 children a day.

Shifting from Fiscal Years to calendar years, in calendar year 2021, Partners in Nutrition was reimbursed $121 million for serving 63 million meals. In calendar year 2021, Youth Leadership Academy was reimbursed $21 million for serving 7 million meals. Combined, that’s $142 million for 70 million meals.

Adding in the $198 million paid to Feeding Our Future in calendar year 2021, that works out to $338 million, or about 167 million meals across the three networks.

Dividing by the 365 days in 2021, that works out to an average of 456,000 meals per day. You would think that the loss of a half-million meals a day from Minnesota’s food supply would be noticed.

The only media reports touching on the loss of food were this one claiming that a local food shelf had shut down (it hasn’t).

The biggest free-food effort in state history has apparently vanished without a trace.