In the alleged Feeding Our Future scandal, the sudden rise and fall of Youth Leadership Academy

The state Department of Education (MDE) has shut down a third nonprofit network in the free-food scandal.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that MDE shut off the nonprofit network Youth Leadership Academy back in December, a month before the famous FBI raids on the nonprofit Feeding Our Future. Youth’s reinstatement appeal was denied late last month. MDE has, so far, shut down the three largest free food networks: Feeding Our Future, Partners in Nutrition, and Youth Leadership Academy.

Youth Leadership Academy was founded in November 2020 and has been doing business as Gar Gaar Family Services. In its first twelve months of existence, the nonprofit took in $21 million from the federal free food program. The $21 million represented 7 million meals.

Google Translate says that “Gar Gaar” means “help” in Somali. However, Bing Translate renders the phrase as “special justice.”

Youth Leadership Academy operates thirty sites across the state under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), with a maximum daily capacity of more than 56,000 children, according to the MDE database for the program. Youth was one of many nonprofits which sprang up out of nowhere to immediately claim large payments from the program.

Distribution sites for Youth included day cares, halal markets, office buildings, retail spaces, etc. Youth claimed to operate their own site out of this St. Anthony office building,

According to MDE’s database, Youth claimed the ability to serve up to 2,500 children, two days per week out of this building.

Youth’s founder, Martin Mohamed, reports that he formed the nonprofit after a falling out with Feeding Our Future, under which he operated a distribution site in 2020. Accounts vary as to what prompted the break.

The Star Tribune reports that Youth Leadership has yet to register with the Minnesota Secretary of State, even though their website solicits private donations. The paper also reports that one of the nonprofit’s board members is former Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. The two-term Democrat now heads the nonprofit Global Minnesota. The Executive Director of Youth, Khadija Ali, serves on the board of Global Minnesota.

Youth’s COO/CFO, Priya Morioka, also serves as COO of Ali’s company Global Language Connections, according to her Twitter and LinkedIn bios. Both Ali and Morioka have donated to Democrat office holders and parties in recent years. Morioka appears as the Youth contact person in MDE’s database.

Global Language Connections operates out of a storefront on East Lake Street in Minneapolis,

July 2023 file photo

As COO of Global Language Connections, Morioka serves on the Governor’s Workforce Development Board.

As CEO of Global Language Connections, Ali serves on the board of the Minneapolis Foundation, run by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. She also serves on the board of the Citizens League.

Although neither the organization nor any of its employees were named in the FBI search warrants, there is a connection. The nonprofit at one time was based at 2722 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, which is address no. 6 in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney in late January.

The U.S. Attorney claims that this commercial office building was purchased for $2.8 million by owners of Safari Restaurant, using ill-gotten gains from the free food program.

The Star Tribune reports that one of Youth Leadership Academy’s food vendors has a felony conviction for burglary on his record.

Not one person has been arrested or charged in the case.