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Angel Food loss hits families

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

John Holland, who was a coordinator for the local Angel Food Ministries distribution site, said the closing of the ministry last month affected about 87 or 88 families who had been buying low-cost food from the nonprofit.

"Some of them keep calling me," said Holland.

At its peak, said Holland, the program served more than 100 families each month.


Angel Food was started in 1994 by pastors Joe and Linda Wingo with 34 families in Monroe, Ga. At its height, the organization grew through a network of over 5,000 churches to feed more than 500,000 families a month in 35 states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois, New Jersey, California, Kentucky and Indiana.

There was no income requirement to participate, but the program was aimed at families in need. Typically, people could place orders of multi-meal boxes of meat, vegetables, fruit and other staples from a menu that varied monthly. The food cost between 30 and 50 percent less than what they would typically pay at a grocery store.

Holland said locally, a box that sold for $32 would include $65-70 worth of groceries.

Hard hit

"Angel Food has not been immune from the same economic and market conditions that led to the loss of other food ministries," read a statement released last month by Angel Food Ministries. "We realize the pressure that this places on our host sites, community food banks and customers. We at Angel Food Ministries are truly heartbroken to have to cease operations but it has not compromised our faith in God or our commitment to helping those in need."

Holland said the economy squeezed the program from several directions. Some families felt they could not afford to pay even the bargain price and instead sought food from local food banks instead. The economy and weather conditions also increased the price of some of the staple items typically included in the box, making it harder for Angel Food to include them. Eggs, which had been a regular part of the food box, were sometimes left out in recent months.

For every box delivered, the church hosting the distribution site received $1 from the nonprofit. In Wednesday's statement, Angel Food said it has returned about $24 million to partner organizations.

FBI search

The ministry ran into trouble in 2009 when the FBI searched its offices and questions were raised about Angel Food's finances. Board members and former employers also filed a lawsuit accusing the leadership of using the nonprofit as a moneymaking venture.

The Wingos and their two sons were all on staff and had $500,000 yearly salaries.

Angel Food spokesman Steve Savage said no charges were ever filed in the FBI investigation.

According to an earlier statement posted on the Angel Food website, the organization has issued full refunds to most of its customers for scheduled September deliveries.

The website now appears to have been taken down.