Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Serving Neighbors One Box at a Time

This is a loooonnnngggg blog entry. But this was such a neat idea and so innovative that rather than just stick a bit on here and link to the site, we're putting a LOT on here and linking to the site. Here's the link just in case you don't want to scan down through all the following:

Angel Food Ministries

Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing grocery relief and financial support to communities throughout the United States. The program began in 1994 with 34 families in Monroe, Georgia (between Atlanta and Athens), and has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of families every month across 35 states. Angel Food Ministries crosses denominational lines and has spread the good news of the gospel of Christ through salvation tracts that are placed in each food order.
Blessings by the box

Angel Food is available in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box at $30 per unit. Each month's menu is different than the previous month and consists of both fresh and frozen items with an average retail value of approximately $60. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in various communities using a wide range of retail grocery stores and has resulted in the same food items costing from between $42 and $78.

Generally, one unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for almost a month. The food is all the same high quality one could purchase at a grocery store. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe.

Also offered are specialty boxes such as steaks, chicken and pork. Many participants in this bonus program appreciate the expanded choices. Additionally, there is no limit to the number of units or bonus foods an individual can receive, and there are no applications to complete or qualifications to which participants must adhere. Angel Food Ministries also participates in the U.S. Food Stamp program, using the Off-Line Food Stamp Voucher system.

How the Program works

Orders and distribution are handled by church host sites. Orders are collected by the host sites during the first part of each month. These orders are then turned in to the Angel Food main office in Monroe, Georgia, on a predetermined date. Several days later, in the same month, the host site either picks up the food from Angel Food's 160,000 square feet warehouse to fill the orders on Distribution Day or, because this ministry is growing nationwide, food is delivered to the host site by a pre-arranged delivery mode. In most cases, as long as there is a truck headed in the direction of a community who wants this program and sees its ministry influence, there are no extra transportation costs.

Interested in your church or organization becoming a host site?

Click here for more information and application instructions

It's both a Bargain and a Blessing!

Sample Menu: (this month's menu can be examined by clicking here)
4 lb. IQF Leg Quarters
4 oz. Beef Back Ribs
1 lb. 80/20 Lean Ground Beef
2 lb. Breaded Chicken Tenders
1.5 lb. Bone in Pork Chops (4 x 6oz.)
1 lb. Ground Turkey
18 oz. Stuffed Manicotti (Cheese)
12 oz. Smoked Sausage
Betty Crocker Seasoned Potatoes
7 oz. Cheeseburger Dinner
16 oz. Green Beans
16 oz. Baby Carrots
2 lb. Onions
1 lb. Pinto Beans
1 lb. Rice
7 oz. Blueberry Muffin Mix
10 ct. Homestyle Waffles
Dessert Item

Blessings at Work

There are two main administrative issues a host site will need to address. First is the order taking process. Once the program is underway, a church or non-profit organization with a vision for helping their community can organize one or two delegated individuals whose job is to process the orders. These orders can be taken at a table in the foyer of a church or perhaps a kiosk setup with a banner. Typically, this takes one to two days per month and includes orders taken by phone, submitted by mail, by email, by fax, in person or through envelopes or order forms used for that purpose. The individuals in charge of this first step will process simple paperwork, which would include a form, cash, checks and food stamps. One check for the total order from the sponsoring host site, plus any food stamps, is sent to Angel Food Ministries. This order from the host site is due on a predetermined Monday of a given month. The second administrative matter, Distribution Day, includes the presence of church and community volunteers who come together to perform duties ranging from setting up and filling boxes and containers to clean up or assisting disabled or elderly customers with carrying their containers to their cars. Most host sites do not deliver to their community; customers are urged to pick up their food at the host site location, bringing their own boxes or baskets to be filled.

Distribution Day is where the rubber meets the road. People are working together for common goals, they meet new friends or perhaps life-changing conversations take place. Socio-economic distinctions are forgotten and the church begins to regain its God-ordained presence as the centerpiece of the community. If the host site is organized well, it is possible that those picking up food will be there less than two minutes; while others, the volunteers, can expect a two- to four-hour time of reward, working with one another and helping others. Distribution Day then becomes for many the one day in the month when a sense of fulfillment through service and a life of purpose becomes a reality. Practically, 6 to 8 workers can handle 250 units of food, but wise pastors and leaders will encourage other volunteers to be there to experience the joy.

Using the quality food at significant discounts offered on a regular basis is a real and practical way to say clearly that you care. It also infuses a reminder of the value that God places on humans everywhere and that they deserve every opportunity that can be offered them in the name of love and friendship.

Churches that participate in Angel Food Ministries benefit in many ways:

Gives church members hands-on experience and training with rewarding service to others.

Provides food for those that desperately need it, as well as help offsite food costs for middle class families who also struggle with debt and other financial pressures -- everyone qualifies.

Each month, Angel Food Ministries makes a donation to community outreach funds.

Gives churches and organizations an effective outreach to the community to meet real needs in a genuine way -- often times drawing new participants and visitors into the mission at hand.

Getting the Word Out

To get the word out to your church and community -- just tell them. How? Word of mouth, door hangers and brochure literature, your website, advertisements in local newspapers, press releases or by giving a unit of food as a gift. Additionally, if your organization finds the right opportunity with local TV and radio stations, they might run information about your involvement with Angel Food at no cost, as they are required by law to broadcast a certain amount of Public Service Announcements (PSA). Ask them if you can help them meet their legal quota of PSAs.

It is also possible to join hands with corporations who may be interested in holiday endeavors to distribute food. Your church's enthusiastic volunteers, a generous corporation's funding and the capacity of Angel Food Ministries can be used to touch expanded portions of the community and deliver quality food to those who would appreciate it the most during the various holidays seasons throughout the year.

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