Mismanagement at Food Banks

August 8, 2014; Florida Times-Union

Only around three weeks ago, I wrote a newswire about a food bank that had lost one of its biggest fundraising projects to what they termed a “rogue effort” led by its former development director, Now, here is this story that sounds eerily similar, as the former executive director of the food bank run by Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida is being sued for “intentionally disrupting” operations at the bank over a two-year period and then spreading tales of mismanagement once he resigned.

According to the suit, Bruce Ganger supplied confidential donor and financial information to national food network Feeding America, both when he was running the Second Harvest North Florida food bank and afterwards when the network hired him to start up a competing food bank. The suit alleges that this led to “lost revenue, food donations, community goodwill, the resources of national network membership, and a federal food distribution contract worth millions.”

Ganger’s attorney Alan Wachs dismissed the complaint as vindictive and an effort to blame Ganger for the nonprofit’s own problems.

“This is a silly publicity stunt,” he said. “They are trying to divert attention from themselves.”

Ganger was hired by Lutheran Social Services in 2011 and left in January by mutual agreement with no specifics cited (as was the case in with the Greater Washington County Food Bank in Pennsylvania). Immediately thereafter, in February, Feeding America terminated Lutheran Social Services’ membership, citing problems in inventory control, record keeping, and facility issues. Lutheran Social Services claims that Ganger failed to maintain operations to network standards and that he did not inform the board when Feeding America placed the food bank on probation.

Lutheran Social Services continued operating its food bank under the name Nourishment Network North Florida, but the next month, Feeding America established a new affiliate in Jacksonville called Feeding Northeast Florida and hired Ganger as executive director. The two food banks are now competing for donors, suppliers, donors, and member pantries.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Food Assistance Program put its contract, worth $3.2 million, up for bid a year early, and both groups will apply. The state’s emergency move opened up the last year of the contract, which typically is bid for one year with three potential one-year automatic renewals or the option to rebid. State spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said, “In this instance, we opted to take the opportunity to rebid the contract in order to evaluate all of our options in the area and help to ensure the success of the program.”—Ruth McCambridge