Angel Food program rapidly growing at New Kent church
It’s just after 7:30 a.m. on a late summer Saturday morning. A small army of volunteers has already erected and arranged tables inside the social hall at Corinth Baptist Church. Now they sit or stand about the hall, engaged in small talk while waiting for another group of volunteers to arrive.
That second group has been on the road since 5 a.m., traveling to New Bridge Baptist Church in neighboring Henrico County where they have loaded dozens of boxes and crates containing food items on to their vehicles for the trip back to Corinth.
At 8:15, a convoy of pickup trucks pulls into the New Kent Courthouse church’s parking lot. Inside the social hall, conversations end and the pace suddenly quickens. Some rush outside to begin the unloading process while others man the tables, preparing to tear open the containers and place food items in designated spots. Soon, customers will be arriving to pick up food orders. The doors open at 9 a.m.
Such is the routine once a month during the Angel Food Ministries food distribution program at Corinth. Last Saturday, the church’s distribution date for August, volunteers filled over 200 orders, a number that has risen rapidly since a handful of church members began taking part a few months ago. August is only the third month the program has been offered to the public.
“It’s amazing how fast word is spreading,” said Heather Tate, who coordinates the Corinth effort. “Our first month was a trial month just among the congregation and now this month we have 204 orders to fill.
“This is open to everybody,” she said. “There’s no application process and no qualifications. You can order food only when you want it.”
Tate credits Corinth’s involvement to Leslie Caldwell, the wife of the church’s pastor.
“Leslie told my Sunday School class about the program and gave us the Angel Food web address to visit,” Tate said.
They checked out the web site and discovered that a regional distribution site is based at New Bridge where Richmond area churches converge once a month to pick up food orders. Corinth members began placing individual orders through the Henrico church last December.
“We later contacted Angel Food, sent in an application to become a distributor, and got approved,” Tate said.
“We weren’t expecting it to grow this fast,” she added. “Every month we see the numbers climbing so we feel very fortunate.”
Customers buy what is dubbed a “regular box” at a cost of $30. But inside are groceries valued in the $60-$75 range. Each regular box is designed to feed a family of four for a week and boasts a variety of meats, dry and canned goods, and vegetables and fruit, both fresh and frozen.
“This is all restaurant-quality food. There are no seconds, and it’s all fresh produce,” Tate said.
The menu for next month includes a pound and half of top sirloin strip steaks and pork filets, two pounds of chicken breasts, three pounds of chicken chunks, and a pound each of ground turkey and bratwurst sausage. And that’s just the meat category.
Also featured will be a 20-ounce pizza, green beans, stir-fry vegetables, crinkle-cut fries, reduced fat milk, macaroni and cheese, pork and beans, chicken-flavored rice and vermicelli, pinto beans, a dozen eggs, and a dessert item. Not bad for just 30 bucks.
Then there’s the monthly specials. For September, five specials are listed: a six-pound assorted meat grill box, a five-pound steak and meat combo, a 10-pound box of party wings, and a 10-pound “5 for 4” dinner box, all at $20 each, and a $19 fresh fruit and veggie box.
A “Senior Box” of 10 heat and serve individual meals designed to meet the nutritional needs of senior citizens will be available in September for $25.
Customers must place orders by Sept. 14. Those using credit (VISA) or debit cards can do so on-line at www.angelfoodministries.com by typing in their zip code, which connects to the Corinth site.
Customers paying with cash or food stamps must contact the church at 966-5635. Tate said orders are taken by phone the first Wednesday of each month from 6:30-8 p.m. The next pickup date at the church (11650 New Kent Highway) is Sept. 27 from 8:30-10 a.m.
Angel Food Ministries began 14 years ago in Good Hope, Georgia. The program has since spread to 35 states and now serves a half-million families. Corinth is one of close to 4,500 host sites.
Corinth serves New Kent as well as Charles City County. Charles City, for now, does not have a host site, but Tate said she has received inquiries from churches there.
“It’s an amazing program that’s helping people in our community, and I’ve heard nothing but positive response so far,” she said.
Tate, meanwhile, takes advantage of the program herself, adding, “It’s helped my family a lot with our grocery bill.”