Memphis food program sponsors received thousands in state funds, didn’t feed children, officials say

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — Sponsors participating in two federally-funded Tennessee food programs received money to feed kids but did not feed them, according to a release from the Department of Human Services.

The two programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program for Children, are administered by DHS.

Giving Youth a Chance is the name of the sponsor in Memphis. The other sponsor, New Beginnings International Ministry, operates feeding sites in the Nashville area.

These programs commonly provide snacks and meals to children.

New Beginnings and GYAC have both participated in the food service programs for more than five years and have received millions of dollars in reimbursements, the release said.

Throughout those years, both the Comptroller’s Office and DHS have identified deficiencies and areas of noncompliance within both entities.

Comptroller’s auditors visited two GYAC feeding sites and did not see any children being fed, according to the report.

GYAC claimed 350 snacks and suppers were served on these days, and DHS paid GYAC $884.

GYAC claimed it served between 111 and 200 lunches and snacks per day at the New Horizon Apartments. Comptroller auditors and DHS monitors visited this site on four occasions and counted a maximum of 59 children present.

The 2021 Single Audit Report includes questioned costs totaling $19,002, which is the difference between the number of meals GYAC claimed and the highest number of meals observed – 59 – for 39 days, the report said.

Ultimately, the Comptroller’s Office has questioned 11,781 meals claimed by both sponsors, totaling $63,304 in questioned costs.

The results of this special report have been shared with a number of parties, including state and federal prosecutors.

“Both of these food program sponsors have a history of problems, and they’ve shown an inability to achieve permanent corrective action,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “DHS has policies in place to remove sponsors who fail to correct issues. We’ve been pleased to work closely with DHS on addressing red flag situations like these.”

“When you’re spending money, and it’s not going to meals for children, I think that is a concern for all of us,” John Dunn, a spokesman for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office, said.

GYAC works to provide food to 30 different sites across Memphis.

Our cameras were rolling Tuesday morning as volunteers with the non-profit packed up several vans with food to deliver.

We talked to the pastor who leads the program. He did not want to speak on camera, but he said serving the community is very important to them.

He also said the state only checked two of the locations they serve.

However, Dunn said their report is factual.

“We visited numerous sites where we didn’t see any staff; we didn’t see any children,” he said. “The rooms were closed, yet those sponsors would turn around and seek reimbursement from the state indicating they had served meals to children.”

Gwendolyn Woods is the vice president of operations for the Boys and Girls Club on Isabelle St. in Memphis.

She said they’ve been working with GYAC for years and was shocked to hear of the allegations.

“They provide lunches, dinner, and snacks every day,” she said. “For some of the kids we serve, that’s the only meal they get a day, so we really, really appreciate them.”

FOX13 heard back from the attorney representing Giving Youth a Chance.

She said they are reviewing the comptroller’s report and will respond accordingly.

If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at 800.232.5454, or file a report online at tncot.cc/fraud.