Free food scandal in southeastern Alabama

The story is a familiar one: missing free-food money, but no arrests or charges. The setting is the southeast Alabama city of Dothan, so the accents are different.

The peanut capital of the world has its own “Feeding Our Future”-type scandal. As reported by the local CBS affiliate WTVY-4, two city employees have lost their jobs over mismanagement of a city-sponsored after-school meals program.

A local restaurant received over $3 million in Federal reimbursements for catering the meals, over a two-year period. Accusations include bid-rigging and inflated meal counts.

But the song remains the same: the FBI is investigating, but no arrests or charges in the case, as reported by WTVY’s Ken Curtis.

The program was operated by the city’s Department of Leisure Services, which runs the city’s parks and recreation centers. The program continues with food catered by the city schools. Irregularities in the program were uncovered in a city audit.

Sadly, this Covid-related alleged fraud has been uncovered across the country, in a number of other Federal relief programs. Back in March, national New York Times reporter David Farenthold visited Minneapolis to report on the alleged Feeding Our Future fraud. He has since widened his scope across the country and across many programs, with the fraud adding up to the billions of dollars, perhaps hundreds of $billions.

Farenthold writes,

In the midst of the pandemic, the U.S. government gave unemployment benefits to the incarcerated, the imaginary and the dead. It sent money to “farms” that turned out to be front yards. It paid people who were on the government’s “Do Not Pay List.” It gave loans to 342 people who said their name was “N/A.”

New York Times, 8/16/2022

But Farenthold reports that Federal investigators are overwhelmed by the immense volume of the fraud.