GAINESVILLE - Members of a Gainesville church who manned an Angel Food distribution point in the city say it's been tough for needy families who relied on the now-defunct Georgia-based food ministry, but help is on the way.
Saint Paul United Methodist Church on Washington Street was one of the largest of about six distributors in the Gainesville area for Angel Food which issued discounted groceries to needy families across the country.
Angel food officials cited the economic downturn as the reason for the organization's downfall and collapse in September. Then it was disclosed that Angel Food leaders faced federal indictments on a wide-ranging laundry list of charges including fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and others.
That was bad news for the 60 families who paid about half price for a full box of groceries they would pick up once a month at St. Paul' s, according to Susan Page, a church administrative assistant who took the orders and helped issue the food. She said Angel Food is badly missed and its shut down took everyone by surprise.
"It was very badly missed," she said. "We supported a couple of charities in the Gainesville area and some of the Sunday school classes at St. Paul bought boxes for individuals."
There is an effort to get food distribution going again, according to Page, and it involves church members and a new food distribution group that seeks to replace Angel Food.
"One Harvest has started back up with additional funding, and it's the same principal as Angel Food," Page said. "We're going to start with them in January, hopefully not with the same outcome."
One Harvest, operated by former Angel Food staff members, is based in Loganville.
Page said One Harvest offered to replace Angel Food before it shut down. Church members discussed it and decided to stay with Angel Food, not knowing that distributor was headed for trouble.
"Sunday school classes were encouraged to keep donating and we got vouchers for food at J&J Foods to supplement and send to one of the charities we help out...My Sister's Place," she said. "We also kept sending food to one person who was needy; they would go and get their food at J&J."
The church had to stop distributing food to individual Angel Food families, however.
"We had to stop, we couldn't support them also, but we did want to continue with My Sister's Place because they are supported totally by donations," According to Page.
St. Paul's Financial Secretary, Frances Steedley, said the food cost with One Harvest would be about the same as it was with Angel Food.
"It's going to be roughly the same but you're getting quality merchandise just as you did with the Angel Food Program," she said. "From what we see it's a very good program."
Steedley said Angel Food shut down at the worst possible time with the current recession economy causing such a great need.
"The people who are hurting the worst are the people who needed it the most," she said. "We think when we start with One Harvest it's going to be a large distribution every month just as Angel Food was."
Like Angel Food, One Harvest won't have any specific income requirements; it is simply based on need. The One Harvest order deadline will be a week before distribution day in January for five different food boxes varying in size and cost.
"If you need it, you come and order it and pick it up," Steedley said.