Blessings by the box

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By Vince Luecke

Angel Food Ministries helping families stretch their dinner dollars

PERRY COUNTY - Kenny Ambrose has no doubt that a nationwide outreach ministry that distributes hundreds of thousands of boxes filled with high-quality food each month is catching on in Perry County.

People hearing about the program that offers $30 boxes of high-quality food valued at $60 or more keep ringing his phone or stopping him on the street.

"I suspect we'll have well over 100 orders in September. It just keeps growing each day," said Ambrose, who helps coordinate the program for Branchville United Methodist Church. The congregation serves as a host site for Angel Food Ministries distributions each month and works with other churches that take part.

Founded in 1994 with 34 Georgia families working together to help stretch their food dollars, Angel Food Ministries is a nonprofit, nondenominational organization that strives to provide grocery relief in communities across the United States.

Each month, boxes of food are sold for $30 to individuals and families. The boxes are designed to help provide food for a family of four for approximately a week, or a full month for a senior citizen, and include fresh, frozen and packaged foods.

"It's good food, top quality and its balanced to help promote good nutrition," Ambrose said. Most food items are fresh or frozen and are of the same quality as those purchased at grocery stores. There are no secondhand, damaged or out-of-date items.

Angel Food Ministries saves money by placing orders directly with food companies and distributes the products across the nation.

Ambrose took advantage of the program for several months when he was unemployed and while his situation has improved, he knows many families are struggling today with high costs of food, as well as gas and other everyday living expenses.

He helped spread word of the program and more than 20 families began participating. The first local distribution at Branchville United Methodist took place in July with 65 orders and interest has only grown since then.

Anyone can participate in the program and there are no age or income restrictions, Ambrose said, meaning participants don't have to fill out any eligibility forms or other paperwork. There's only a simple order sheet listing that month's food items and several specials.

Angel Food Ministries also accepts food stamps, Ambrose said, and he personally works with people to obtain the needed information from the state-issued cards.

For September, the $30 regular box includes top-sirloin steaks weighing 1.5 pounds, 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 3 pounds of breaded chicken chunks, a 1.5-pound boneless pork filet, 20-ounce supreme pizza, 1 pound each of ground turkey, cheddar cheese bratwurst sausage, green beans and stir-fry vegetables.

Also included are 35 ounces of fries, 32 ounces of reduced-fat, shelf-stable milk, macaroni and cheese, pork and beans, chicken-flavored rice and vermicelli, pinto beans, a dozen eggs and a dessert item.

Also available for $25 each are senior boxes, which consist of 10 frozen meals that are already fully cooked. September's senior box includes chicken parmesan, herb-roasted chicken, beef meatloaf and chicken stew.

There are no limits to the number of boxes that can be purchased.

Purchase of either regular or senior boxes extends eligibility for several monthly specials, including assorted meats, dinner meals and fresh fruit and vegetables. Five specials are available for September, priced at either $19 or $20 each.

Orders placed by Sept. 14 will be ready for pickup at the Branchville church from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Sept. 27.

Angel Food Ministries also donates $1 from each order to participating churches' benevolent funds to further their work.

A copy of Angel Food Ministries' magazine, The Servant is included in each box of Angel Food but there is no religious obligations to take part in the program. The magazine offers updates about Angel Food Ministries and the next month's menu.

Ambrose would like to see the county become a regional distribution point for Angel Food ministries, allowing semi loads of food to be delivered locally. He and other volunteers now travel to Salem to pick up food.

For more information or to obtain an order form, contact Ambrose at 843-4685 or e-mail him at bumcministry@ hotmail.com.

Angel Food Ministries' Web site is located at www. angelfoodministries.com.

Copies of September's order form are also available at The News.