Feeding Our Future audit: MN Department of Education oversight was 'inadequate'

The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor released a report detailing how the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) monitored, or didn't monitor, Feeding Our Future while the nonprofit organization stole millions of dollars meant to feed disadvantaged children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, Minnesota Department of Education: Oversight of Feeding Our Future, was released Thursday morning and is set to be presented to the Legislative Audit Commission at 1 p.m. 

The Office of the Legislative Auditor said in a statement that "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."

Feeding our Future's Founder, Aimee Bock, filed a motion to sanction MDE, alleging the organization destroyed evidence after Feeding Our Future filed a lawsuit in 2020. That motion was denied by a Ramsey County judge last week, with the state calling the move "pure theater" which relies on "half-truths and incomplete information in an attempt to garner headlines and side-step the actual process of presenting and testing evidence before the court," court records read.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Gov. Tim Walz' said, "This fraud scheme was an appalling abuse of a COVID-era program intended to feed children. But those involved have not escaped accountability – dozens have been charged, and several are now behind bars. 

"The suggestions made by the legislative auditor are good ones, and in most cases the state has already taken the proposed actions. The state has taken strong steps to find and eliminate any remaining vulnerabilities in government programs and will continue to constantly evaluate ways to improve."

Prosecutors charged 70 people with crimes related to stealing more than $250 million in federal funds under the guise of running child nutrition programs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A jury reached verdicts on seven suspects, finding five guilty and two not guilty in deferral court on charges related to the scheme. The five people who were convicted carried out a $40 million fraud scheme to defraud the Federal Child Nutrition Program in which they obtained, misappropriated and laundered millions of dollars in funds that were intended as reimbursements for the cost of serving meals to children, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

READ MORE: Feeding Our Future verdict: 5 guilty on most charges; 2 found not guilty

FBI agents also served at least three search warrants at the homes of three people convicted last week. The raids are in addition to another FBI search last week in response to an attempted juror bribe that saw a bag of $120,000 get dropped off on her doorstep. 

READ MORE: Feeding Our Future juror bribe: FBI searches 3 more defendants' home

This is a developing story and will be updated.