Dollars & Sense: Good food cheap for good cause

Dollars & Sense: Good Food Cheap For Good Cause

By Arlinda Smith Broady

With the economic decline still nipping at our heels, it’s getting harder to be philanthropic. Our lifestyles are getting thriftier as our wallets are getting thinner. But imagine doing something to help those less fortunate while helping yourself.
That’s pretty much the philosophy behind Angel Food Ministries.

The organization was founded in 1994 by Joe and Linda Wingo in Monroe. The original mission was to feed families of laid-off workers from the local industrial plant, but as it is with many good ideas, it grew beyond its original intention.
Today, the nonprofit, nondenominational organization has grown to serve as many as half a million people every month across 44 states.

Organizers refer to it as “blessings by the box” because for $30 you can get a medium-sized box of food that would retail for about $60. Comparison shopping has been done across the country in a range of retail grocery stores and has resulted in the same food items costing $42 to $78.

And the food isn’t discards, damaged items or odd lots. It’s quality fare that comes in convenient packaging, as well as fresh produce. In general, the featured box can feed a family of four for a week or a single person for about a month.

And you don’t have to be low-income to take advantage of it. There are no income, geographical or age restrictions, although the convenience foods are geared toward seniors and the program does participate in the U.S. Food Stamp program.

A friend mentioned it to me, and I checked it out last month. The closest organization to me is Loaves and Fishes, an interfaith ministry in Pooler. Perhaps best known for its Food Pantry that distributes at the West Chatham YMCA, Loaves and Fishes is one of several local nonprofits involved with Angel Food.

I spent $91 on four different offers, including the “signature” box. The entire haul included:
— 4 New York strip steaks
— 2? pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
— A pound of lean ground beef
— A pork roast
— A frozen lasagna
— A quart of shelf-stable milk
— Frozen chicken nuggets
— 12 frozen stuffed chicken breasts
— An assortment of fresh fruits, i.e. apples, oranges, plums, grapefruit, pears
— An assortment of fresh vegetables, i.e. potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions
— Frozen broccoli and lima beans
— Dried beans
— Rice
— A dozen eggs
— And a whole lot more.

The best thing was a fajita kit complete with onions and peppers, tortillas and two pounds each of ready-to-cook steak and chicken cut up and seasoned. We had fajitas one night, quesadillas the next night and enough leftover chicken for barbecue chicken pizza a third night.

My family of four has gone through a little more than half of our purchase and are ready for next month.
Besides the fact that we’re getting such a great deal on good food, it’s satisfying to know Loaves and Fishes receives 50 cents per box toward its food pantry to help the less fortunate.

“Anybody who tries it, loves it,” said Marti Stein, director of Loaves and Fishes. “And they don’t feel guilty that they’re taking something from the poor – they’re actually helping.”

The Pooler operation has grown so much that it is now freestanding, which means its volume of business is sufficient that it doesn’t have to piggyback on the Savannah location.

“Abundant Life and the Y have been great partners,” Stein said. “That’s what our ministry is all about, though, coming together to do good works.”


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