Giving Holiday Cheer to Military Families

By MARIA ELENA BACA,

Star Tribune in Minneapolis, MN

Angel Food Ministries offers an opportunity to sponsor families of military personnel.

ANGEL FOOD MINISTRIES

Thanksgiving boxes must be ordered by Nov. 11, and Christmas boxes by Dec. . For a listing of the state’s 43 host sites and information about sponsoring a military family, visit www.angelfoodministries.com

Angel Food Ministries distribution

Especially around the holidays, thankful Americans look for ways to give back.

This year, a national discounted-food distributor is offering a way for folks to reach out to families of deployed armed service members and those who recently have returned from overseas deployments.

Most of the year, the Angel Food Ministries distributes boxes of food through 6,000 host sites in 44 states. Unlike with a traditional food shelf, the food isn’t free, but it is discounted by about half, said Phil Winn, outreach pastor at Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park and the organization’s state coordinator. Nationwide, the program serves about half a million families a month, with deliveries of restaurant-grade meats, produce and prepared foods that it buys at quantity discounts.

There is no income qualification for participants, who pick up their goods once a month at host sites, mostly social service agencies and churches like Living Word.

The church views the program as a ministry, “an opportunity to share God’s love, but we aren’t banging people over the head with the Bible,” Winn said.

One dollar from each box goes to the churches’ “benevolence funds”; in the case of Living Word, it goes to support international missionary work.

Under the holiday program, people can buy a Thanksgiving or Christmas box that will be provided for free to the families of people who are serving overseas, or armed service members who are readjusting to life stateside.

At $36 each, the boxes include a roasting chicken, ham, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes and more to make a large holiday meal.

Since the return last winter of the 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota Army National Guard, better known as the Red Bulls, there are fewer deployed Minnesotans than in recent years, said Capt. Kristen Augé, executive officer of the 34th’s Network Support Company. But she added that many returned home to find jobs lost to the recession, or to face other financial difficulties.

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