Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


October 26, 2011

Smart choice to replace Angel Food Ministries

EFFINGHAM — A new affordable food service will help fill the void left by Angel Food Ministries after the nonprofit organization shut down last month.

    New Beginnings Church in Effingham will serve as a host site for Smart Choice Food Source in Illinois. Distribution will begin next month.

    New Beginnings Pastor J.C. Neff said the need for such a service is there.

    “We had 70 customers every month,” he said, adding Angel food served people of all ages and economic status. “Much of them (were) middle class people trying to save money and pay bills.”

    Ginger Juenger was one customer who began using the service five years ago to help out the elderly, including members of her family.

    “I have an aunt and uncle who can’t get out and go to the store. We provide them with groceries every month,” she said.

    Juenger said seniors eat better with the program, and it’s convenient.

    “A lot of seniors need all the help they can get,” she said.

    Juenger’s family also utilizes the service, and when they get something they don’t need, they drop it in a food pantry box.

    The Neoga resident said the service is especially beneficial financially.

    Like Angel Food, Smart Choice has no income requirements and there is no limit on how much can be ordered.

    Other area churches also will begin offering Smart Choice next month. They include First Christian Church in Oblong, Flora Assembly of God, First Christian Church in Mattoon, First Baptist Church in Charleston and First Christian Church in Tuscola.

    “A lot of churches in the state are getting ready to come on,” Neff  said, adding 50 churches are slated to start the program next month.

    The food is prepackaged and boxed, with a “Smart Box” selling for $35. It contains more than 25 pounds of food, including 14 pounds of meat. A senior box sells for $25 and includes seven heat-and-serve meals. Smaller boxes also can be added to the purchase.

    “I think people will be pleased with the product,” he said. “They’re trying their best to cater to the needs of the people.”

    Neff said right now he is trying to get the word out about the service and passing out menus at locations that previously distributed Angel Food.

    For now, Neff said only cash and checks will be accepted and mail-in orders will be taken for the monthly service. The church will not be able to accept food stamps the first month, but hopes to be able to in December.

    Orders will be taken from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 3, 4 and 7 at the church and distributed Nov. 19 for customers to pick up.

    Neff, who served as Illinois director for Angel Food, is pleased with the year-old Ohio-based company, but was sad to see Angel Food go under.

    The Georgia-based ministry cited the recession and rising food, fuel and operation costs as reasons for closing its doors after 17 years. 

    However, the ministry also had legal problems and settled a lawsuit in 2009, the same year its finances came under scrutiny by the FBI. No charges were ever filed.

    Churches in Effingham County that would like join may call Neff at 217-342-3305.

    Cathy Thoele can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 126 or cathy.thoele@ effinghamdailynews.com.

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