Minnesota suspends funding for St. Paul nonprofit connected to government food programs
The Minnesota Department of Education told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it has suspended food program funding to a St. Paul-based nonprofit group named Partners in Quality Care.
MDE declined an interview request to explain specific reasons why the funding to PIQC has been suspended.
In a statement, MDE said it has also proposed disqualification and termination of PIQC’s participation in two federally-funded food programs.
MDE said the decision to suspend the funding was, in part, connected to recent federal search warrants in which PIQC was named. The search warrants were executed for another nonprofit, Feeding Our Future, which also participates in the food programs for children and low-income families.
MDE explained the reasons for their actions in the following statement:
“The affidavits made public on January 20, 2022 included evidence naming sites under Partners in Nutrition dba Partners in Quality Care. This led MDE to suspend payments to Partners in Quality Care. Partners in Quality Care was notified of this on January 20, 2022.
“In March of 2021, MDE declared Partners in Quality Care seriously deficient due to their failure to conform to performance standards and had been further evaluating Partners in Quality Care. After reviewing the documentation in the affidavits, MDE took action on the existing serious deficiencies and on January 31, 2022 proposed termination and disqualification of Partners in Quality Care.
- Termination of Permanent Agreement: the termination of the contract between a sponsor and the State agency which prevents the sponsor from continuing operation of the programs entirely.
- Suspension of Payment: the pause of reimbursement payments due to information received that leads the State agency to believe there could be issues in the validity of the claims.
- • Disqualification: disqualification is the status of an institution, a responsible principal or responsible individual, or a day care home that is ineligible for participation.”
PIQC also declined an interview request, but did issue the following statement from Executive Director Kara Lomen:
“Partners in Quality Care sponsors the service of nutritious and vitally important meals daily to at-risk and underprivileged populations in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota. Partners in Quality Care was not the subject of any of the searches conducted by law enforcement recently, and the agency has not been advised that it is under investigation. We are confident our agency is compliant with all laws and regulations and is a trustworthy steward of the public funds entrusted to it.
“For a small part of our agency’s service, sites whose meals are sponsored by Partners in Quality Care have used vendors who were named in the law enforcement documents unsealed in recent days. To assure that meals are indeed distributed and meet program requirements, we took immediate steps to suspend the involvement of Partners in Quality Care with those vendors listed in the law enforcement documents. We have advised sites sponsored by Partner in Quality Care to do the same. Partners in Quality Care will only do business with associates whose compliance and ethics are beyond reproach.
“Just today Partners in Quality Care has been in contact with MDE regarding the additional documentation we will provide to validate our claims for reimbursement so we can continue serving at risk populations. To the extent MDE pursues any suspension or other interruption of Partners in Quality Care’s work, we will appeal that action because of our organization’s confidence that it is complying with applicable laws.”
According to MDE records, PIQC received a combined total of more than $37 million for both federal food programs, in 2020, which are called Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program
In 2021, MDE records showed PIQC received a combined total of more than $130 million for the two programs.
At this time, no criminal charges have been filed against any organization or any individuals connected to the federal food programs.