47 People Were Charged With Defrauding A Food Program For Kids. Here's Why

In 2021, Feeding America reported that the rate of food insecurity in the U.S. was the lowest in over 20 years in 2019. According to their survey, 35 million people nationwide that year struggled with a "lack of access to sufficient food because of limited financial resources," which in turn severely affected their ability to feed themselves or their families. In 2020, when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the hard work of getting American families back on their feet began to seemingly slowly unravel, per Feeding America's study, which was further impeded by tripling unemployment rates and an increasing poverty rate. Throughout the first year of the pandemic, the number of people experiencing food insecurity jumped to 45 million, according to Feeding America. Per their findings, this meant roughly one of every five children in America, many from black communities, were affected by this scarcity — a sharp uptick in the projected downward trend for food insecurity.

To combat some of these alarming numbers, federal programs were put into place to help feed underprivileged children nationally. Billions of dollars were poured into the cause, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the midst of an unknown virus, people needed help — but others saw it as an opportunity. As CBS News reported on September 20, 2022, roughly 47 people allegedly stole upwards of a quarter billion dollars from these funds, and it wasn't for feeding their hungry kids. Instead, it was purportedly for purchasing expensive luxury cars and brand-new houses.

Did 47 people defraud food meant for food insecure kids during the pandemic?

As of the time of this writing, a group of 47 people in Minnesota are facing charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and more after they allegedly created fake companies in order to steal from a pandemic-founded food insecurity fund, according to CNBC. The defendants stole upwards of $250 million meant to provide children from low incomes with meals from a program called Feeding Our Future.

Per CBS News, the money for the federal fund came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Per their report, the Department of Education administrated the money to provide children at schools with free meals, but only a few authorized groups could sponsor the sites that served the food. Feeding Our Future, a self-described "consultancy," was one of them, per CBS. To make this scheme work, several people created shell companies and applied to the program, with many citing Feeding Our Future as a sponsor; the organization would then submit false claims for reimbursement, which amounted to $200 million in 2021. 

While announcing the charges against the 47 people allegedly involved in the scheme — among them Feeding Our Future CEO Aimee Bock — U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger called it "the largest pandemic fraud in the United States" (via CBS). While the federal fund comes from taxpayer dollars, just a fraction of the money went toward feeding kids with food insecurity. Per CBS, most of the accused allegedly laundered the money and spent it on luxuries such as property, travel, and cars.