Food ministry expands to after-school packs

BY COURTENAY EDELHART, Californian staff writer
cedelhart@bakersfield.com | Tuesday, May 18 2010 05:25 PM

Angel Food Ministries, a nonprofit agency that provides deeply discounted groceries to families with tight budgets, has added a new service in response to one side effect of the economic downturn — lunch and snacks for children home alone.

“Due to the economy, some parents are not going to be able to put their kids in summer day camps as they may have done in the past when school was out,” said Marisa Banks, administrator of the food program at Compassion Christian Center, one of about a dozen Bakersfield area Angel Food Ministries host sites.

“Very few people can afford not to work these days, so a lot of children are going to be home alone while their parents are working,” Banks said.

California, like most states, does not specify the precise age at which it is acceptable to leave a child home unsupervised, but authorities may intervene at any time if a child is believed to be in danger.

Headquartered in Monroe, Ga., Angel Food Ministries gets bulk rate discounts from food suppliers, enabling it to sell groceries to the public at roughly half the normal retail price. There are no income limits to participate in the program, which is administered by nearly 6,000 churches, nonprofits and other organizations in 44 states.

Needy families order groceries in advance off a menu that changes every month, and pick the box up from the nearest host site once a month.

Most consumers order the Signature Box, which includes enough food to feed a family of four for a week and costs $30.

But there are niche boxes, too, such as 10 fully cooked meals for $28, or all seafood for $35, or food free of nuts, gluten and other common allergens for $23.

Two months ago, Angel Food introduced two new boxes.

The Just 4 Me After School Box for $24 features corndogs, chicken tenders and other child-friendly foods that either are ready to eat or can be prepared in a microwave as opposed to an oven or stove.

The $16 Just 4 Me Fruit and Veggie Box is just what it sounds like, fruits and vegetables or processed foods made from them, such as applesauce, juice and sweet potato chips.

“People kept asking for this,” said Angel Food spokesman Juda Engelmayer. “We’re constantly soliciting feedback from our customers, and this one came up in record numbers.

“It just kind of shows where the economy is. The reality is, child care is expensive so a lot of kids are unsupervised after school. Families need something to tide them over until the parents can get home from work.”

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