Unintended consequences?

Collateral damage from the Feeding Our Future scandal.

American Experiment has been reporting on the Feeding Our Future scandal for nearly one year — ever since over 200 law enforcement officers raided the offices of the St. Anthony-based nonprofit and related organizations at more than a dozen locations. Since then, there have been thousands of free-food distribution sites registered under the government programs caught up in the scandal. Each one tells a story.

Three categories of sites caught in the scandal’s wide net have emerged. All the attention has been paid to the indictments filed in the case primarily showing the massive fraud and criminal deceit at the expense of taxpayers. A much quieter story revolves around the other free-food distribution locations that were doing genuine work and feeding children under difficult circumstances but found themselves suffering consequences of the scandal. For yet another group of locations, where they fall on the spectrum is a bit murkier.

In addition to Feeding Our Future, a second large free-food network — Partners in Nutrition, doing business as Partners in Quality Care — was shut down by Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in January. They have been suing in both federal and state courts for reinstatement. The state appeal will be heard on February 1, 2023.

Partners has also been appealing decisions by MDE to not pay hundreds of invoices, some dating back to November of 2021.

In fact, Partners in Nutrition has 13 invoices dating from November and December of 2021 that remain unpaid by MDE, according to state documents. A few appear to be denied because they were submitted by local nonprofits named in the FBI search warrants. Others are lacking proper documentation.

However, MDE has apparently rejected four invoices, from three host sites, because their food vendor was mentioned in the search warrants. Not one of the local sites was mentioned by name in any search warrant or any later indictment in the Feeding Our Future case.

The food vendor, S&S Catering, is the subject of the third indictment in the case. This indictment has produced two guilty pleas, to date.

All three hosts with unpaid 2021 S&S invoices have established track records and have been operating for years. One is a local childcare center, incorporated in 2015 and based on Lake Street in Minneapolis. As of 2022, it is under new management. It is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and is in good standing, with an approved capacity of 76 children.

The nonprofit Disabled Immigrant Association was established in 2003 in Minneapolis.

The Somali American Peace Council is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. It has current IRS tax returns on file and was registered in Minnesota in 2014. Its local office is in Eagan.

The sites registered under Partners in Nutrition with locations in Minneapolis are as follows:

A childcare center operated a site for its enrolled children and a larger summer site for the public. The Peace Council operated three locations. Both the childcare center and the Disabled Immigrant Association are seeking reinstatement to the program through the Partners lawsuit.

Among its three locations, the Somali American Peace Council operated at an address on Pillsbury Avenue. The Minnesota Reformer reported the nonprofit’s site at that location operated alongside an unrelated site by the nonprofit Action for East African People, serving 600 individuals per day. Both Pillsbury Avenue efforts operated under the sponsorship of Partners in Nutrition.

At one time, the south Minneapolis office complex located at 3355 Hiawatha Avenue had three separate free-food efforts claiming capacity to feed up to 8,000 children per day. All three were operated under Partners in Nutrition.

Hopefully, all of this confusion will be straightened out in court.