Angel Food Ministries serves all

Register Reporter

For Viola Beachy, the 36-mile drive from Garnett is worth the cost of fuel and time to receive her monthly box of food from Iola’s Angel Food Ministries program.
Beachy has taken advantage of the program for “at least the last two years,” she said.
“I really like a lot of their chicken products,” she said. “It’s really good quality.”
The assortment of food comes in boxes. Those designed to feed a a family of four for one week, typically costs $30. That same food bought off the shelves of area grocery stores would average $45 or more. And, those who use the service say, the quality is as good — or better — than what they can otherwise buy.
“I had one older lady tell me the senior box meals are much better than regular TV dinners,” said volunteer Gayla Banz, who has been helping with Angel Food since it began. The senior box offers prepared meals that are geared nutritionally to older individuals.
Other specialty boxes include food for people with allergies to wheat, nuts and dairy, a fresh fruits and vegetables box and one with meats best for grilling.
Until a couple of months ago, purchasers had to buy the regular box of food to be able to buy any of the specialty boxes. Now, any box in any quantity may be purchased, to better serve varying needs.
Contents of a regular box have changed over the years. Originally, to keep prices down, the food was as natural as possible, requiring regular kitchen preparation, volunteer Sally Huskey said. Now, there are more convenience-type foods.
In this month’s order, a complete stir fry meal is included, plus a pan of lasagna and breaded fish filets. There is also a surprise dessert.
“That’s one way they’ve really improved” the service, Banz said.
Future changes will allow people to order online and pay with a credit card, Huskey said.

IOLA’S FIRST Presbyterian Church has been offering the Angel Food boxes since 2006. Initial use of the service was 1,200 boxes, but has leveled out at about 150 boxes per month as other municipalities in Southeast Kansas have picked up the service.
The ministry was started in 1994 in Georgia, Banz said, by the Rev. Joe Wingo. At the time, he was looking for ways to help his congregation, hit hard by an economic downturn.
“But the people were proud, and they didn’t want to take handouts,” said Huskey. So the minister began to charge a small fee for the food, and people responded.
Although initially for those on limited incomes, the service “is not class restrictive,” said Banz. There is no income limit, although most people who order tend to be middle- to low-income, she said. The church can also process electronic benefit Vision cards. No records are kept of income levels, however.
“I think that the real positive of it, is that anyone can qualify” Banz said. “There’s not a lot of bookkeeping about who uses the service.”
For Iola to qualify to distribute the reduced-price groceries, however, those who purchase the foods are asked what sort of community outreach they do each month, said Don White, another volunteer. “That lets them know we are a ministry,” White explained.
Almost anything can count as outreach, though, White said, pointing out a list which included being a soccer mom or sports booster, mowing a neighbor’s lawn, singing in church or doing any sort of volunteer or community work.

ABOUT THREE weeks after ordering, the food arrives in a refrigerated truck.
Haldex Brake Corporation allows Angel Food to use its truck bay and loading dock area, Huskey said. They also provide a forklift and driver. About 15-20 people come help unload the truck and parcel the food into boxes to match the orders. Specialty boxes come prepackaged, Huskey said.
Haldex’s generosity has proved a great convenience to the ministry, Huskey said. “We’re out of the cold in the winter and refrigerated in the summer.”
And for those picking up food, “You don’t even have to get out of your car,” she noted. “Our people will carry the food to you.”
One thing people do need to do, though, is bring a cardboard box big and sturdy enough to hold the food. A box from a ream of paper isn’t quite big enough, Huskey said. “People always bring these small boxes. It’s a lot of food.”
And, if people have the time, more volunteers are always welcome. The next delivery is slated to arrive at Haldex around 7 a.m. on Nov. 21. Contact First Presbyterian Church at 365-3481 to help out.