Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Angel Food Ministries Forced To Close

*Below is an article which discusses the impact of the end of Angel Food Ministries upon a particular community. The closure of this organization is producing nationwide repercussions.

Angel Food Ministries Closing After 17 Years

RANTOUL — A food ministry that served low-income residents and others affected by the poor economy is, itself, a victim of the economy.

Angel Food Ministries, which at one time served 500,000 families a month in 35 states, said last week it was closing after 17 years.

The shutdown was effective immediately.

Angel Food Ministries had been founded in January to replace the SHARE Food bulk food program in Rantoul when SHARE Food shut down in December because of low numbers.

Nancy Brown, Angel Foods' director in Rantoul, said the shutdown is going to hit many area residents hard, including her.

Brown said one person who had participated in both the SHARE Food and Angel Food programs got a shock when she went to a store to buy meat.

"She didn't realize what a bargain she was getting," Brown said.

Another customer used the program because she has acute allergies that don't allow her to be around people. The program offered home delivery.

An announcement on the Angel Food Ministries website said organizers "realize the pressure that this places on our host sites, community food banks and customers."

The announcement said most, if not all, food ministries have shut down in recent years. The rapid rise in food costs and fuel costs were cited for the decision.

Brown said Rantoul area residents who placed a food order for September will receive refunds.

She said she had no inkling that the program was struggling until it was announced that the September order of food would not be coming.

Despite starting up less than a year ago, the Rantoul site was in Illinois' top three in terms of customer numbers, Brown said. An average of more than 100 people signed up for food each month.

"It's devastating to have it happen twice in a year," Brown said.

She said she is actively seeking a replacement program but doesn't know if any are available.

"It's hard, even in your own mind, to accept this and hold your head up and go on," Brown said.

The Angel Food Ministries program saved customers money through bulk purchasing. J.C. Neff of Effingham said about 180 distribution sites were set up in Illinois and about 5,500 host sites in the country.

Participants were able to sign up at either one of two monthly signup periods at Community Service Center or online using a debit card or credit card. They were also able to use their Link Card or SNAP card when paying on-site.

Income level didn't matter. Anyone could order through the program, regardless of how much money they made. And participants weren't limited to Rantoul.

Food was trucked from Georgia to distribution sites. Rantoul's site was the Community Service Center.

Pastors Joseph and Linda Wingo started the program in 1994 in Georgia.

The shutdown of the Rantoul program will have an effect in another area as well.

Some Champaign County residents sentenced to perform community service will have to look for another work site.

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