The free-food empire strikes back
The suspended nonprofit Partners in Nutrition wins a round in its appeal against the state Dept. of Education. One of three free-food nonprofits suspended in the wake of the Feeding…
However unlikely, the west metro suburb of Edina features prominently in the free-food scandal.
Not one person has been arrested or charged in the case. The alleged scandal involves two federal free-food programs: the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Food Program (SFSP). In Minnesota, the programs are overseen by the state’s Department of Education (MDE).
These programs are usually described as being targeted to low-income children. However, during the pandemic, the rules were relaxed on income eligibility for recipients and on requirements that free-food distribution sites be located in low-income areas.
As a result, free-food distribution sites popped up in Edina, one of the higher-income areas in Minnesota. According to databases maintained by MDE, the following distribution sites are registered in Edina:
Edina has a population of about 53,000 with about 13,000 children. The local public school district registered enough capacity with MDE to accommodate roughly half of the city’s children.
Locations are spread throughout the city, which boasts per-capita income averages well above-area levels, according to the website incomebyzipcode.com.
Sites sponsored by two now-suspended free-food nonprofits were located in Edina. Feeding Our Future sponsored sites hosted by Al Hikma, the Millennium Center for the Performing Arts, and the Youth International Club. The Youth International Club is based in Hopkins and was founded in January 2021.
Partners in Nutrition sponsored one site by the nonprofit Ilays Community Outreach.
The most prominent role that Edina plays in the free-food scandal is as host to suspect premises no. 1 in FBI search warrant no. 3. The location is a suite of co-working offices located at Edina’s Southdale Mall. The office is home to the ThinkTechAct Foundation, a nonprofit that the FBI believes is involved in the scheme.
In the larger world of free-food programs, Edina is important as the home of the nonprofit Providers Choice, Inc. This company is not named in any FBI document or involved in any way in the alleged scandal.
Providers Choice sponsors the state’s largest network of distribution sites located at childcare facilities. This nonprofit company was established in 1984 and in the most recent full fiscal year took in more than $22 million from MDE.