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A Minnesota nonprofit that is currently the subject of a massive federal fraud investigation is disbanding.

Feeding Our Future said in a statement Friday that its board of directors voted on Feb. 23 to dissolve the organization. That means it will "begin winding down its operations" as the FBI continues its probe. Federal authorities have indicated they believe Feeding Our Future was the key player in a fraud scheme, in which millions of federal dollars meant to be used on meals for low-income children were instead used to buy "luxury" personal items, such as real estate and cars.

Nobody has been arrested or criminally charged in connection with the investigation as of Feb. 25, though the U.S. Attorney's Office filed a civil suit seeking civil forfeiture of 14 properties tied to the FBI's work.

"The conspirators received tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for use in providing nutritious meals to underprivileged children and adults. Almost none of this money was used to feed children," that lawsuit says. 

Friday's announcement from Feeding Our Future cites "negative media reports" and inaccessible funds as key reasons for its dissolution. (The FBI has frozen all of the nonprofit's assets as part of the investigation.)

“Feeding Our Future did a lot of great work for the community," said Aimee Bock, executive director of Feeding Our Future, in the announcement. "It’s heartbreaking that the organization must dissolve under these unfortunate circumstances."

Inklings of suspect behavior first came to light in spring of 2021 via the Pioneer Press and Sahan Journal. But the federal probe only made headlines on Jan. 20, 2022, when FBI agents executed search warrants at three Twin Cities locations, including Feeding Our Future's St. Anthony offices.

That's when the scope of the alleged wrongdoing began to come into focus. Financial records included in related search warrants show the nonprofit's revenue exploded in recent years, going from $3.4 million in 2019 to $42.7 million in 2020, then $197.9 million last year.

Most of that money came from U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, which nonprofits could apply for through the Minnesota Department of Education, the Sahan Journal explains. Feeding Our Future and its partners would then be reimbursed for providing meals to low-income children and adults that qualified for the aid.

The search warrants and civil suit make it clear federal investigators believe that didn't happen, with the documents alleging most of that money was instead spent by various partners on personal belongings: A Porsche, a property in Kenya, a home in Savage, lakefront lots in Prior Lake, and more.

Bock has repeatedly denied wrongdoing (including here to the Star Tribune), and alleges the investigation is retribution after she filed a (recently dropped) civil lawsuit against the Department of Education.

The investigation has since ensnared individuals and organizations throughout the Twin Cities. Among the continuing fallout:

  • Minneapolis City Council Member Jamal Osman founded one of the nonprofits suspected in the fraud, though cut ties with it in 2020 (Sahan Journal).
  • Safari Restaurant, Empire Cuisine, S&S Catering were identified as three subcontractors that claimed to be serving thousands of meals every single day (Star Tribune).
  • Abdiaziz Farah, director of the charter school Gateway STEM Academy, is named in federal documents as having allegedly spent more than $500,000 of federal food aid on personal items (Sahan Journal).
  • Edina nonprofit ThinkTechAct is also named, and claimed last June it provided meals to 160,000 kids every day (Sun Current)
  • Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Rep. Ilhan Omar state Sen. Omar Fateh all received campaign contributions from some of the individuals named in the search warrants, and have since donated those contributions elsewhere or said they planned to do so (Star Tribune, Sahan JournalSahan Journal)
  • A second food funding program, Partners in Quality Care, is suspended by the Minnesota Department of Education in connection with the FBI investigation (KSTP).
  • Abdi Salah left his post as a senior aide to Mayor Frey over allegations he was involved in the fraud scheme (Sahan Journal).

The investigation even has the attention of the New York Times, with reporter David Fahrenthold looking for firsthand accounts from people who had an experience with Feeding Our Future.

Said the nonprofit Friday:

"Feeding Our Future was one of the largest independent sponsors of federally funded food programs in Minnesota, providing meals through subcontracted third-party “sites” to over 30,000 children a day during the food crisis resulting from COVID-19 and other large spread social unrest in the Twin Cities area. In large part, these meals went to children of color from disadvantaged BIPOC communities in the Twin Cities. Feeding Our Future has been in disputes with the Minnesota Department of Education since its inception, resulting in court sanctions against the Department and a requiring an apology by Department staff in 2021. At the subsequent prompting of the Minnesota Department of Education, the FBI opened an investigation into an alleged large-scale scheme to fraudulently obtain and misappropriate federal funds. This investigation involved several of Feeding Our Future’s food sites. During the investigation, the FBI froze all of Feeding Our Future’s assets. Furthermore, since approximately May 2021, widespread negative press coverage involving Feeding Our Future has persisted even though no one has been criminally charged."

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