Pastors Joe and Linda Wingo decided to help some of their neighbors in their hometown of Monroe, Georgia, back in 1994, when industrial plants and mills began closing and jobs were being cut. The Wingos thought that providing families with food to help them through the temporary hard times would be a good way to offer a hand up, rather than a hand out. They began by distributing 34 boxes of food from the back porch of their farmhouse, and the assistance was well received. So much, in fact, that the Wingos began to think of others who were suffering from the rising costs of gas, food prices, day care, and utilities, as well as those who had been laid off, recently divorced, or injured in accidents and unable to work.
Today, their nonprofit — nondenominational Angel Food Ministries (AFM) — has expanded from the back porch of their home to a giant distribution center. It includes hundreds of "host site" churches around the country and assists more than half a million people each year. Earlier this year, the program made its way to Memphis.
Here's how it works. Because AFM buys in such huge quantities, it's able to get restaurant-quality food at discount prices and sell boxes of fresh and frozen groceries for $30 that would normally cost approximately $60. Additional specialty boxes may be ordered with the purchase of a $30 box. Also, for seniors, boxes of 10 precooked, ready-to-heat dinners that would normally cost approximately $50 are available for $25. Anyone can purchase the food; there are no restrictions, requirements, or applications to complete. The name-brand foods include meats, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. AFM sells no "seconds," day-old goods, or dented cans.
While many churches serve as host sites in the Memphis area, Temple of Deliverance COGIC at 369 G.E. Patterson is a major distributor in the 38126 Zip code, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. People can order online at www.angelfoodministries.com by clicking on "select a host site" and choosing Temple of Deliverance. Or they can order at the church during the first two weeks of the month and pick up their food when it arrives, usually on the fourth Saturday of the month. The menu changes monthly and the $30 package is put together to assist a family of four for about one week or a single senior citizen for about one month. You may buy as many units as you like and you may "sponsor" other families by purchasing food for those in need.
The website also lists the menus for each month. A recent selection featured top sirloin steaks, boneless chicken breasts, breaded chicken chunks, boneless pork filet, pizza, ground turkey, and bratwurst sausage, as well as beans, rice, vegetables, milk, cheese, and a dessert. For seniors, the individual fully cooked meals with heating instructions included oven-roasted turkey breast with sage gravy, bread stuffing, creamed potatoes, green beans, and cranberry sauce; and herb-roasted chicken quarter with gravy, white rice, and peas and carrots.
Peggy Burnett, Angel Food Ministries' host site director at Temple of Deliverance, says that the program, which started there in June, has been a blessing for hundreds of families. "They are so thankful," she says. The church takes orders on Sundays after the 7:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. services; on Tuesdays after the 7 p.m. service; and Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Checks and money orders are accepted, and the church will soon accept food stamps and EBT cards.
For more information about AFM, visit www.angelfoodministries.com or call Temple of Deliverance COGIC's social services line at 521-9160 extension 316.