Midweek Columnist Bob Jones broke a story about the Kauai Independent Food Bank allegedly misusing $779,000 in federal grant money. Jones notes that the Hawaii Foodbank used to contract with the Kauai Independent Food Bank until June of last year, but cut off the relationship when questions about mismanagement arose.

Today, the state reports it has ended its relationship with the organization.

A statement from Erin H. Young, who is with the Office of Community Services, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, wrote:

“The Hawai`i State Office of Community Services (OCS) has terminated its Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Kaua`i Independent Food Bank (KIFB), effective December 31, 2011.  The MOA allows KIFB to distribute food under the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

“Food banks throughout Hawaii receive TEFAP goods through OCS under a grant from the USDA as the lead distributors, and many sub-distributors are also involved.   The food banks also distribute foods from other sources.

“Until recently, there was only one food bank operating in each County.  Earlier this year, Hawaii Foodbank, Inc., centered in Honolulu, opened an office in Lihu`e.

“Hawaii Foodbank is the OCS authorized distribution agency for TEFAP commodities on O`ahu, but OCS has not yet entered into any MOA with Hawaii Foodbank for TEFAP distribution on Kaua`i.  Under federal regulations, OCS has the sole discretionary authority to designate the TEFAP distribution agencies in Hawai`i.  Although food banks have historically been the primary TEFAP distributing agencies in Hawai`i, some other types of non-profits are potentially eligible to fulfill this responsibility.

“Ms. Mila Kaahanui, OCS Executive Director, stated, “OCS must make the best use of the federal and state funds we receive.  Financial responsibility, compliance with federal regulations, relationships with the beneficiary communities, and the ability to get the job done on time with the right resources are all important.  We are keeping our options open, and we will be meeting with several organizations and community leaders to help guide our decision-making.”

Jones writes: “According to documents provided to the state and federal governments by Hawaii FoodBank, and reviewed by MidWeek, the Kauai agency misused $779,000 in federal grant money (and thus was forced to pay it back), refused to submit to an audit and inspection in July of 2009, wrongfully distributed food to an unqualified local paddling club, was found to not be monitoring chiller temperatures properly and was distributing out-of-date foodstuffs. … Incidentally, the returned $779,000 was money that would have been spent for needy seniors on Kauai.”

As Jones notes, the news may lead to a federal and state investigation because federal grant monies and a state non-profit are involved.

 

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