Nonprofit wins small battle in lawsuit with the MN Dept. of Education over funding for meals for low-income children

A Minneapolis non-profit last week won a battle in a year-long legal fight with the Minnesota Department of Education over funding for meals for low-income children. Judge John Guthmann of Ramsey County District Court ordered the department to pay $35,750 to Feeding Our Future and $11,750 in attorney’s fees for failing to follow through on […]

Nonprofit wins small battle in lawsuit with the MN Dept. of Education over funding for meals for low-income children

A Minneapolis non-profit last week won a battle in a year-long legal fight with the Minnesota Department of Education over funding for meals for low-income children.

Judge John Guthmann of Ramsey County District Court ordered the department to pay $35,750 to Feeding Our Future and $11,750 in attorney’s fees for failing to follow through on an earlier agreement, finding the department in contempt of court.

“The court finds the MDE in constructive civil contempt for violating a court order, the entry of which it negotiated and stipulated to,” Guthmann wrote.

The judge also wrote that the department’s failure to obey the court order to act on the pending applications could cause “irreparable harm and accompanying collateral consequences” to the children it serves.

The two organizations have been in dispute since 2020 when the department changed its application process for groups like Feeding Our Future which distribute federal funds to sites throughout the state that provide meals for low-income children.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food service programs — the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program — work in tandem to ensure low-income children are provided free, nutritious meals year-round, including after school and when schools are not in session.

The subscriber, such as a non-profit, applies to the USDA for funding which is handled by MDE.

“During this time of high need, MDE failed to process applications as required by law,” said Aimee Bock, spokesperson for Feeding our Future. “MDE not only violated federal regulations, it also violated (a previous) court order… Even after being found in contempt of court, the MDE is continuing to take the position that it is above the law and the children in Minnesota do not deserve access to nutritious meals and snacks.”

The lawsuit goes back to November 2020 when Feeding Our Future alleged that since Sept. 8, 2020, it had submitted 51 applications to open new distribution centers in low-income and minority communities that MDE failed to process.

The non-profit also alleges that MDE changed its application process requiring new “administrative and procedural hurdles,” imposed restrictions on its ability to expand, withheld federal funding and has taken retaliatory action against the Feeding Our Future leadership.

MDE spokesperson Ashleigh Norris said the department cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

“The Minnesota Department of Education is committed to ensuring all children have access to meals,” she said, “and ensuring sponsors and sites are able to operate and feed children while meeting all U.S. Department of Agriculture program regulations.”

In the lawsuit, the department alleges that Feeding Our Future’s auditor failed to file the audit properly, did not update its budget worksheet, has been slow to hire an accountant, that its applications was riddled with typos, and that it is investigating four complaints filed against the non-profit.

Litigation is ongoing and the non-profit said it would also protest in front of the MDE building in Roseville.

“The community is tired of MDE illegally blocking access to the federal food program,” Bock said.