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Explosive audit report on Feeding Our Future

By Bill Glahn

Center of the American Experiment

Originally published here 6/13/24


The state’s Legislative Audit office released the report this morning on the state Department of Education’s (MDE) mishandling of the Feeding Our Future scandal. A 120-page PDF of the report can be found here.


The report is narrow in scope, the Auditor only reviewed oversight by MDE of a single nonprofit corporation, Feeding Our Future, of St. Anthony.


Don’t be put off by the report’s length. You can gather the gist of the report from its 2-page summary (PDF, pages 5-6). The official summary of the summary,

We found that MDE’s inadequate oversight of Feeding Our Future created opportunities for fraud. MDE failed to act on warning signs known to the department prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and prior to the start of the alleged fraud, did not effectively exercise its authority to hold Feeding Our Future accountable to program requirements, and was ill-prepared to respond to the issues it encountered with Feeding Our Future.

As you can infer, no punches were pulled. For my money, the most shocking revelation,

Between June 2018 and December 2021, MDE received at least 30 complaints involving Feeding Our Future or its sites…And, MDE inappropriately asked Feeding Our Future toinvestigate complaints about itself. (PDF, p. 6)

For its part, MDE has claimed, and still claims, that its oversight of the free-food nonprofit was adequate. It boasts of having been the entity who first alerted the FBI as to the ongoing fraud. The auditor put the lie to that false claim.

In its carefully documented report, the Auditor tells the real story (PDF pp. 73-74),

Further, in February 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) notified MDE of allegations it received involving Feeding Our Future, all of which would later be reflected in the federal criminal charges filed in 2022 through early 2024.

The FBI notified the Department of the allegations, not the other way around.

Another lie perpetuated by the agency can be found near the end of the report. The Auditor includes a letter from MDE responding to the report beginning on PDF p. 113.

On April 21, 2021, a judge warned MDE that it did not have the authority to stop payment to Feeding Our Future and would need to continue to pay Feeding Our Future’s claims or face possible contempt charges. (PDF, p. 115)

In reality no such judge said any such thing. This lie was so egregious that the agency’s general counsel was forced to correct the record at a legislative hearing this afternoon. Yet the lie will live forever in the appendix to the official report.


Among other contributions, the Auditor has helped to put the scandal in perspective with one simple chart that I’ve copied below,

The fraud involved two government programs: the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The entire statewide spending on these two programs totaled $335 million in Fiscal Year 2021. One nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, received more than 42 percent of the total amount in FY 21.


Here’s a graph of that same data:

Combining the spending on both programs for both FY21 and FY22 produces a total of $656 million. In the wake of the scandal, MDE shut down the three largest free-food nonprofits in the state: Feeding Our Future, Partners in Nutrition (d/b/a Partners in Quality Care) and Youth Leadership Academy (d/b/a Gar Gaar Family Services).


Adding what Feeding and Partners got in FY21/FY22 gets you to more than 2/3 of the total spending. Add in Gar Gaar and you are over 70 percent. Think about that, more than 70 percent of the state’s free-food money was going to three organizations that MDE determined weren’t fit to even be program participants.


As mentioned above, something called the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) held a public hearing on the report this afternoon at the capitol. The LAC is a joint committee including state representatives and senators, and evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.


Your correspondent was on hand, in person, for the full two-and-a-half hours of the hearing, held in a lower-level committee room in the capitol building.


Auditor Judy Randall presented the report along with one of her directors.


Afterward, the MDE Commissioner, Willie L. Jett II, along with the agency’s general counsel, provided the rebuttal. Neither Jett nor the agency’s attorney were at the Department during the years in question.

Having already read the report and the reply, I was most interested in the questions asked by legislators. Some highlights, relying on my written notes of the event,


Rep. Duane Quam (R-Bryon) asked MDE whether any MDE employees were disciplined for their failure to oversee Feeding Our Future. Jett refused to answer.


Instead, he angrily pushed back, stating that he was not about finger pointing or blame assignment. In Jett’s world, “accountability” is something that happens collectively, anonymously, and without passing judgement.


Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) twice asked MDE whether they supported the Auditor’s recommendations. She never got an answer. I’ll quote Deena Winter of the MN Reformer, who took better notes of Sen. Rest’s pointed reaction than I, that the buck never stops. Sen. Rest,

The buck is still running down the street and stopping nowhere, and that is unacceptable.

Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch) asked about restitution from Feeding Our Future. Jett replied that was up to the Feds. Koran was the member who asked about the initial contact from the FBI, discussed above.


Another topic that was raised was the mandatory legal obligation of state employees to report suspected fraud to the Legislative Auditor. The Auditor reported that the first her office heard about Feeding Our Future came from media reports in January 2022, years after the fraud began and had been detected by MDE employees.


Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) asks if there are any criminal investigations of the Dept. of Ed. in conjunction with their non-oversight of Feeding Our Future. Rather than saying “no,” the Auditor replied, “no comment.”

Rep. Patti Anderson (R-Dellwood), herself a former elected State Auditor, had pointed comments for MDE regarding their lack of oversight.


The Legislative Auditor made a total of nine recommendations for the legislature to consider (PDF, p. 85).


Gov. Walz was unavailable for comment.


The reviews are in from local media

“Auditor’s report on the education department found glaring weaknesses” State created opportunities for fraud in Feeding Our Future case (sahanjournal.com)
“The MN Department of Education failed to act” Audit says inadequate oversight led to Feeding Our Future fraud | kare11.com

Bill Glahn is an Adjunct Policy Fellow with Center of the American Experiment.

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2 Comments


tbayuk99.alex
11 hours ago

Gov. Walz is a democrat and Won’t act against fellow democrats! He’s Inept and us voters should kick him out! He stole our money when he promised us at least $2,000.00 back from his Over Taxing Us, and gave us only a couple hundred! He’s DIRT!

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engerkevin
Jul 06

Enough is enough… Who is pocketing money? Enough with the damn Democrats already. All they want is more, more, more, without transparency… wake the hell up people!!! Or it will just keep getting worse. There are jail times due to all of this. Let’s catch the fraud once and for all..

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