Senators want audit of Department of Education following fraud allegations

Feeding Our Future received an estimated $198 million in 2021 to work toward its stated goal of not letting a single Minnesota child go hungry.

Minnesota Department of Education/Facebook

More Minnesota state senators are calling for investigations into the government’s handling of federal food aid programs and COVID relief.

Sens. Roger Chamberlain, Mark Koran, Mary Kiffmeyer, and Michelle Benson — all Republicans — made this request in letters sent to the Office of the Legislative Auditor and the Department of Management and Budget last Thursday.

The letters call for an audit of the Minnesota Department of Education and its “management of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program as it relates to agreements with the nonprofit Feeding Our Future.”

“According to the reports, Feeding Our Future has defrauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture of millions of dollars through a grant that was administered by our state’s Department of Education. Very little of the money that flowed through MDE was used to feed children,” one letter says.

The call for audits is a direct response to the revelation that a Minnesota-based nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, appears to have spent tens of millions of dollars on luxury cars, homes, and vacations with funds they obtained through COVID relief. Feeding Our Future is also accused of stealing some of these funds from various federally-funded programs.

“It’s simply outrageous that nearly $200 million of money provided to feed children in need was abused in this way,” Chamberlain said in a statement. “With resources precious, it’s imperative government agencies ensure every dollar is going to programs with robust track records so we can know not a single dime is wasted.”

“There was a true need out there in the last year to help people. It’s simply unconscionable — individuals and groups stole money meant to feed hungry children to buy luxury sports cars and pay for vacations,” added Benson. “I am determined to see justice for those who have been wronged and demand accountability for taxpayers whose money was stolen and abused.”

The accusations against Feeding Our Future emerged after the FBI raided several properties connected to the nonprofit. The FBI claims Feeding Our Future laundered the funds, stolen or otherwise, through various shell corporations before spending it.

Feeding Our Future received an estimated $198 million in 2021 to work toward its stated goal of not letting a single Minnesota child go hungry. It also sent donations to Rep. Ilhan Omar’s campaign at some point after the alleged fraud occurred.

This is not the only COVID relief scheme to have occurred in the state of Minnesota. The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Monday that a St. Paul construction company owner pled guilty to defrauding the federal government of $841,000 worth of money under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Kyle Brenzier, 33, submitted a “false and misleading” PPP application requesting $841,000 in COVID relief, and upon receiving the money spent $29,000 on a new motorcycle and transferred $650,000 to a bank account unrelated to his business, True-Cut Construction.

The date of Brenzier’s sentencing for one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft has yet to be determined.