TULSA, Okla. — FOX23 has been receiving tips from people living near a Tulsa highway about hundreds of boxes of donated food sitting outside spoiling.
Our team went to check it out near Highway 75 and 66th Street North and found stacks of boxes of food and produce, including gallons of milk, containers of cottage cheese and bags of apples, behind a large stack of pallets.
Each box says it’s from the USDA, Go Fresh Produce, and the Farmers to Families program.
Victor Colbert says he was in charge of the food. Colbert runs Oklahoma Heartland Heroes Foundation, a nonprofit contracted by the government to distribute food paid for with public tax dollars.
Colbert told FOX23 he didn’t want to do an interview but kept talking, saying the government delivered more food than usual right before the winter storm in February. The food was meant to go to Arkansas.
He says he posted about the extra food on Facebook, but no post on the foundation’s Facebook could be found upon searching. FOX23 found the last post was from July.
Colbert told FOX23 to talk to his attorney who never returned our call.
The Tulsa Health Department says complaints have been made about piles of food left out dating back to September.
THD says one complaint detailed “tons of rotten food milk produce; it’s stinking bad it’s all over the place.”
An inspector took photos showing boxes of spoiled milk.
Within the same month, neighbors saw a fire with smoke billowing up from behind the building.
The Turley fire chief told FOX23 that the nonprofit was trying to burn up rotten food and milk.
Complaints came into THD again in November and again in February.
FOX23 contacted the food distributor Go Fresh who said they only started delivering the boxes to Heartland Heroes in February and received a complaint the same month about how the food was being stored.
Go Fresh says they immediately stopped sending more boxes and opened an investigation. They say they’re required to notify if there are ever extra boxes that need to be picked up. Go Fresh doesn’t plan on sending anymore.
Colbert says he mostly blames his neighbors who he accuses of trying to sabotage his good work. Those neighbors told FOX23 that that’s not true.
FOX23 set up a drone camera to shoot video in the area and someone started throwing broccoli at it.
Colbert says he plans to clean up this area and move his operation by mid-March.
Since this original story aired, FOX23 heard more people come forward about donated foot sitting out to rot.