Ripe for fraud in Minnesota

The headline says it all: “Records show meals program was ripe for fraud in Minnesota.”

In the first article published by any local media outlet on the Feeding Our Future scandal in more than three weeks, the Star Tribune weighs in with a review of all of the missed warning signs over the years.

The piece chronicles the back and forth between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Education, both of which have oversight of the federal child nutrition programs at issue in the scandal.

The core problem revolves around the trust placed in the system, as reported by the Star Tribune:

In fraud cases in other parts of the country, prosecutors have noted how vulnerable the meals program is to fraud because so much trust is placed in sponsors who are allowed to operate largely on the honor system.

In the end, hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money went out the door. To date, only one figure in the scandal has been arrested, and that was on a charge of passport fraud.

Although the Education Department has suspended three large nonprofits from participating in the free-food programs, the programs continue to operate with the remaining participants. In fact, the Department has approved nearly 2,000 locations for participation in the upcoming summer program. It’s not clear what changes, if any, the Department has made in vetting or monitoring program participants going forward.