Food bank to launch investigation

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank’s Board of Directors on Saturday announced it will conduct an independent investigation into KIFB’s operations.

“As a result of recent claims, the board of directors of Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank will immediately commission an independent investigation of operating procedures, to include day-to-day accounting and grant administration,” the board said in a statement.

As part of the investigation, the board has placed KIFB Executive Director Judy Lenthall on paid administrative leave.

Under the lead of Assistant Director Norma Barton, KIFB will continue to run “its normal day-to-day operations with the goal of providing nutritional food to those in need on the island of Kaua‘i,” the board said in its statement.

Board members refused to comment further Saturday, pending the investigation.

The announcement follows claims of KIFB mismanagement made by Dick Grimm, the director of Hawai‘i Food Bank. HFB recently opened a competing food bank on Kaua‘i.

Grimm has criticized KIFB’s activities related to Kaua‘i Fresh, a former for-profit department of KIFB with paid administrators. Kaua‘i Fresh had purchased produce from local farmers and sold it back to KIFB at a mark up. The food bank used funds from a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to buy the produce.

In 2007, the USDA (through the state Office of Community Services) ordered KIFB to return $779,000 of the $2.5 million grant. The amount was comprised of the unapproved expenditures, including paid administrators’ salaries and mark-ups on produce. KIFB repaid the funds in full in 2009.

The board’s announcement Saturday follows a recent letter from OCS stating that it has chosen to discontinue KIFB’s contract for USDA food, representing approximately a third of the food bank’s total annual distribution. The current contract is set to expire at the end of December.

KIFB is appealing the decision.

A representative of OCS said the Garden Isle will continue to receive the USDA food.

In October, OCS will select which agency to contract for distribution.

KIFB continues to receive monetary funding from the USDA.

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