National ministry helps Columbia residents stretch food dollars

By ELISA ESSNER
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

One Saturday a month, just before 5:30 a.m., a semi-truck pulls into the parking lot of Broadway Christian Church. Twenty or so volunteers work quickly to unload meats, pastas, eggs, fresh fruits, frozen vegetables. Later they will dispatch these supplies to five locations in and around Boone County, where an estimated 150 to 200 families will come to collect their supplies.

This is Angel Food, a national nondenominational ministry that provides low-cost grocery options for its users. For $30, participants can buy a standard box of food that will provide one meal per day for a family of four for a week, or for a single person for a month. There are no applications or income restrictions for people wishing to buy food boxes.

“We like to say, ‘if you eat, you qualify,” says Jamie Kochert, coordinator and user of the program at Fairview United Methodist Church. “As a town, Columbia is absolutely magnificent when it comes to meeting great need in the community.”

Volunteers (from left) Morgan Peterson, Meredith Baker and Linda Baker sort produce before Angel Food distribution (Photo Courtesy of Fairview UMC)

But Kochert worries that many available programs have strict income guidelines that many people, who work hard but still feel financially strained, simply don’t meet.

Kochert says there is no standard user, at least not at Fairview.

“Our users really run the gamut,” Kochert says. “We have people looking to stretch their Food Stamp dollars – Angel Food does accept Food Stamps – to people trying to stretch their actual dollars. Some people have told me it’s just good economic sense.”

Four years at Fairview

Fairview United Methodist became a host church in 2006, after Kochert’s daughter, a single parent, described the program to her.

“I was very skeptical, quite honestly,” Kochert says. “I’m not from Missouri, but I think I’ve adopted the Show-me attitude.”

Kochert began ordering from Hallsville, the nearest host site at the time. She says she quickly realized the benefit this program could have for her own community and approached Fairview UMC’s leadership about becoming a host site.

“Angel Food is basically a big co-op,” Kochert says. “They buy supplies in bulk, and because they buy in such large quantities, they’re able to negotiate the low cost.”

Churches receive $1 for each unit they sell, which Kochert says is used to purchase boxes for several area families or for other church ministries. She was not sure what amount of profit Angel Food receives or what it does with the money.

One-stop shopping

Once the supplies reach the host churches, additional volunteers unload the food again and distribute it categorically. When users arrive, they are greeted by a volunteer who checks their order and then assists them in moving through the room to pick up each item on their list.

“It’s the quickest grocery shopping you’ll ever do,” Kochert says, adding that she does have to supplement her boxes with a few trips to the supermarket.

The menus emphasize variety and nutrition. In addition to the standard boxes, Angel Food offers a variety of specials: senior and convenience meals, allergen-free boxes, after-school boxes, various meat packages, a seafood variety pack, and a fresh fruit and veggie box.

Angel Food volunteers help participants gather monthly supplies (Photo Courtesy of Fairview UMC)

Help yourself

Kochert says the nights before distribution days are like Christmas Eve for her.

“I’m not a morning person, but it doesn’t bother me on those days,” Kochert says. “I can’t wait to see all the people I’ve met, to see what’s new. It feels like family.”

Kochert recalls a story that’s stuck with her over the years of her involvement.

“A family came one Saturday, for them it was very important that their children know that their parents weren’t receiving a handout,” Kochert says.

“There’s nothing wrong with a handout. We’ve all been there. But sometimes it’s nice when our children get to see us helping ourselves.”

Get started

Interested in using the Angel Food program? There are several ways to place an order. Menus and order forms are available at each church, or can be requested by phone. Orders can also be placed online.

Interested in ordering Angel Food boxes? Here is some information you might find useful. For additional menu options, please visit the ministry’s main Web site.

Sample menu (standard box, $30)

2 lbs. Chopped beef steaks, flavored with Dijon mustard – 4 x 8 oz.

1 lb. Bacon-wrapped turkey breast filet mignon – 4 x 4 oz.

1 lb. Boneless center cut pork chops – 4 x 4 oz.

2 lb. Macaroni & beef dinner entree – 4 x 4 oz.

2.5 lbs. IQF Split chicken breasts – resealable bags

1 lb. Lean ground beef

1 12″ Supreme pizza – frozen

1 lb. Frozen peas & carrots

1 lb. Frozen whole kernel corn

2 lbs. Fresh apples

2 lbs. Heat and serve broccoli & cheese soup

24 oz. Natural cut french fries – skin on

6.5 oz. Stroganoff skillet meal

1 lb. Rice

Dozen eggs

Dessert

Ordering boxes

There are several options for ordering boxes. Most of the churches have a drop-box located near their front door, where menus and order forms can be found. You can also request that a menu and order form be sent to you by contacting the church directly. Paper copies of order forms can be returned via mail or placed back in the drop box. These forms can also be downloaded online.

Orders can also be made online at all Boone County locations except Liberty Baptist (see list below). Links to online order forms for each church can be found here. An additional fee of $1 will be charged for online orders.

Distribution dates and times can also be found here.

Locating your host church

There are five Angel Food host churches in Boone County. To find the site closest to you, use this map or see the list below.

Fairview United Methodist; 3200 Chapel Hill Rd. Coordinator: Jamie Kochert, 445-5391.

First Assembly of God; 1100 N. Seventh St. Coordinator: Brian Hulsizer, 443-3626.

Broadway Christian; 2601 W. Broadway. Coordinator: Debby Graham, 445-5312.

Liberty Baptist; 7461 N. Brown Station Rd. Coordinator: Janet Hendren, 696-2380.
Lighthouse Community Church; 4275 E. Highway WW. Coordinator: Lisa Putting, 886-8685.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified one of the volunteers in the first photo as Meredith Petersen. The correct name is Morgan Petersen.

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Filed under Cherry Hill—Stonecrest—Fairview, Columbia-Boone County

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