|Home of Angel Food Ministries|
Enter Angel Food Ministries. It creates boxes of wholesome food, offers those boxes for order at costs lower than at retail grocery stores, and delivers them once a month to 5383 host sites (mostly churches) in 45 states. When the food arrives, volunteers group the food into orders for customers to pick up.
|Pastors Linda and Joe Wingo|
We visited the headquarters in Monroe, GA, interviewed Pastor Joe, and toured the facilities with Bobbi Warburton, Heather Waldo, and chief distribution officer Johnny Willis.
We found it fascinating to get an inside look at how Angel Food Ministries operates. The process begins about 3 months before delivery, when the menus are determined. Each month’s offerings are different. For March, there are 13 separate boxes that a customer can order. They range in price from $21 to $51, and include both general meal boxes and specialty boxes, such as an allergen-free box, an Easter box, and 3 boxes especially for kids. The menu committee considers all the food items to which they have access through their distributors and orders items that are as nutritious and high-quality as they can find and still stay within the budget for that particular box.
|How to assemble a pallet load|
When we arrived, prepack was finished and that part of the warehouse was neat and quiet. But the loading area was a beehive of activity because it was time for specific orders to be assembled onto pallets and the trucks to be loaded. We saw boxes of frozen foods loaded into the trailer first; then a Styrofoam bulkhead was taped into place to keep the frozen food frozen. Next the boxes of fresh produce and eggs were loaded in such a way that they would stay cold without freezing. Last came the dry items, and canned items. This 3-part packing makes sure all items arrive in good shape.
|"Bucket Brigade" unloading at the drop site|
At the end of each trailer was a box of paperwork detailing the items that belonged at each drop site and at each host site. Early on Saturday morning, the trucks from Angel Food Ministries arrive at between 1 and 3 drop sites per truck. Each drop site then distributes to several different host sites. Volunteers from each host site unload the truck, transfer into their own vehicles the boxes needed to fulfill their orders, drive to their own site, and distribute the orders to their customers.
|A customer getting his order|
|Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box|
Therefore, we think the Angel Food Ministries model provides a great way to stretch your food dollar.
Angel Food Ministries also impressed us with their support of several other ministries and programs. For example:
- Host sites, all of which are charitable organizations, receive a donation to their general fund from Angel Food Ministries of $1 per box sold. So far they’ve distributed over $32 million.
- Many of the 250 part-time workers who prepack boxes and load trucks are from local men’s shelters and rehab programs. Workers who are ready to progress with their lives can be trained here in skills such as operating a fork lift, and some have gone on to permanent jobs with Angel Food Ministries.
- In the past, Angel Food Ministries has not solicited donations and received only a tiny fraction of its funds that way. Last fall, however, they started "Sponsor A Soldier's Family," through which anyone can donate a box of food to a military family, to show gratitude for their service. They’ve established relationships with several military bases which select the families to receive the boxes. So far over 1,000 boxes have been sent. A similar program, called "No Child Goes Without," sends donated boxes of food to schools for distribution to children in need.
- Angel Food Ministries is working to make it easier for people in need to apply for and use SNAP (food stamp) benefits. About ¼ of Angel Food Ministries customers use SNAP to buy Angel Food boxes, but they cannot order on-line like most customers. Host sites must place the orders on their behalf because the different benefit processing systems in place in each state don’t currently interoperate well enough to support online ordering. Angel Food Ministries is working with the USDA in an attempt to become a pilot program to allow SNAP recipients to place orders online. This seems like it should work well, since all products offered by Angel Food Ministries are food, and thus SNAP eligible. We hope this improvement for SNAP recipients will occur soon.