Local churches that participated in the low-cost food program, Angel Food Ministries, are left to wonder what to do now that the company is out of business.
Angel Food Ministries suspended its monthly delivery in September and recently announced that it will cease all operations permanently.
The program offered menus with inexpensive food from which people could order, including several meat packages. The food was then distributed to a central location, where area church volunteers would pick it up and distribute it to those who ordered the low-cost items.
However, an announcement posted on the national Angel Food Ministries website has left many to wonder how they will continue to serve the community without Angel Food.
"We regret to inform you that we have not found a solution that will allow Angel Food Ministries to continue to distribute food on a monthly basis and have decided to cease operations," the website announced. "Unfortunately, many if not all other food ministries have gone out of business in recent years. Angel Food has not been immune from the same economic and market conditions that led to the loss of other food ministries."
The Rev. Carolyn Stow, who began as a pastor at the Dunkirk First United Methodist Church in July, promptly brought back the Angel Food Ministries program to the church after it was discontinued.
"It really supports the needs of our community ... since its start we saw an increase in participation," she said Tuesday in a phone interview.
Rev. Stow identified many benefits to the program.
"Because we were delivering food, shut-ins could get food at their door and it was a balanced meal. And for those using food stamps it was good because Angel Food took food stamps. And it was a way for single parents to get groceries without taking the time away from their children to shop," she explained.
She said in the short time the program was back, there was an increased interest.
"Since it started (in July) until August we served 60 people and that number would have grown if the program continued because we were seeing increased numbers," she added.
Director of the Angel Food Program at the Silver Creek Christ Chapel Wesleyan Church Jackie Tooley said the program also benefited the Silver Creek community.
"It was a good way of stretching your food dollar because you could get $70 or $80 worth of food for $30 or $40. I personally used it for my meat so I would only have to go to the grocery store and get some milk and bread and that's pretty much it," she explained.
She said although the program didn't serve a large number, for those it did they really needed it.
"It will be greatly missed. We didn't serve a big group but those that did come it was very important for them," she said.
Rev. Stow echoed those same sentiments.
"We are disappointed. We thought it was benefiting the folks in the community and we were seeing more and more," she added.
Rev. Stow said the Dunkirk First United Methodist Church does have a food pantry and clothes pantry which receive donations from other churches and aids one to two families per day.
Tooley said the Silver Creek Christ Chapel Wesleyan Church is trying to get deliveries from the Food Express truck but noted that it is still in the works.
Both churches are left with a need to fill in both communities, and with few answers to show for it. In the meantime, families who participated in the program in the past will have no other option than to shop at their local grocery store.
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