Meet David Binkle.
He was an adviser to Michelle Obama on her infamous and regularly criticized school lunch program. Binkle, a chef by trade, served for years as the health food guru for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He was held up as the poster child for the first lady's program, instituting its strict nutrition standards for the nearly 1 million children the Los Angeles school district feeds a day. Binkle was so successful in instituting the program that he was brought to the White House to meet with the first lady and advise her on new ways to implement restrictions on children's lunches.
Here is a photo of the two meeting at the White House in 2014:
Here is what Michelle Obama's website said of Binkle at the time:
David Binkle, Director of Food Services for Los Angeles Unified School District, shared that his district has been able to successfully implement and even go beyond the nutrition standards for the 650,000 students they serve. As a result, they have seen increased participation in the program, improvements in students’ academics, and even increased graduation rates.
Things have changed since this glowing report.
Binkle is now facing years of jail time for defrauding the program, and therefore the children he was tasked with feeding. According to court documents, Binkle stole $65,000 hard cash from the Michelle Obama endorsed nutrition program and lined his own pockets with it. He could face up to 13 years in prison if he is convicted on the 15 felony counts brought against him.
According to a damning report by the Los Angeles Times:
The Los Angeles Unified School District serves nearly 700,000 meals per day, and the professional chef helped lead a charge that saw vegetarian curries, pad Thai noodles and quinoa salads replace old cafeteria staples like chicken nuggets and corn dogs.
The initiatives won the district numerous awards, drew praise from then-First Lady Michelle Obama as she led a national push to combat childhood obesity, and earned Binkle appearances on Tedx Talks.
But as he was revolutionizing meals for the district’s students, prosecutors allege, Binkle illegally funneled roughly $65,000 of the district’s money into a private consulting firm he ran, then placed some of that money into his own pocket.
The 55-year-old appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to 15 felony counts including embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds. He posted $220,000 bail and is scheduled to return to court in October. [...]
According to court documents, Binkle repeatedly misappropriated district funds in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 between 2010 and 2014. Prosecutors also allege that he forged an application to become a vendor with the district and failed to disclose outside financial interests.
If convicted, he faces up to 13 years in prison.
The Los Angeles school district has since disavowed Binkle. No word yet from the former first lady.
Perhaps the prison system will be the next food program Binkle can reform.