By William Thompson
About 200 Portales residents went to First Baptist Church Saturday to take advantage of a new charity program, initiated locally, that provides low cost groceries to anyone who wants to participate.
The Angel Food Ministries, a Georgia based non-profit, where the local program orginates, claims on its Web site the average retail value of the groceries is about $50 per box. The charity sells the boxes for $25. Melissa Lamb, Jeannie Kircher and Rebekah Padilla helped set up the Portales host site of Angel Food Ministries.
“I heard about the program from my sister in Amarillo,” Kircher said, “and so we decided to try it here.”
Lamb said Angel Food Ministries buy the groceries in bulk and ship them by truck from a warehouse in Georgia.
“A semi took the food to Clovis and then about 20 volunteers drove from Portales to Clovis to pick up the food and bring it back here,” Lamb said. “Most of the volunteers are from First Baptist Church or Western Essential Ministries.”
A small Christian tract is placed in each box of food. Lamb said anyone can sign up for one or more boxes of food, and anyone is eligible to purchase boxes of food. Saturday was the first monthly food distribution day in Portales.
Lamb said volunteers have been spreading news of the program by word of mouth and flyers, and more than half of those who purchased boxes so far have no affiliation with First Baptist Church.
Since no income information is asked of purchasers, Lamb said she didn’t know how many purchasers were truly needy. Many of those who picked up boxes Saturday described themselves as “middle class” and said they were just happy to get a good deal on groceries.
Janie Hardin, a single mom, said she liked the steak special she was able to purchase.
“You get five pounds of New York Strip steaks for $18,” Hardin said. “It’s just a good deal.”
Brenda Fuselier said the cheaper groceries helped her family out.
“We bought one box for my brother and one for my uncle,” Fuselier said. “We’re helping out my brother, and my uncle has no income.”
Sheri Carpenter said her family wasn’t hurting too bad, but she was happy to take advantage of the program.
“My mother is on a fixed income and my husband is retired,” she said. “Things are kind of tight right now.”
Volunteer Michelle Nickels said her family purchased some of the food.
“It’s good for us middle class people because we don’t qualify for state assistance,” Nickels said.
Angel Food Ministries, which is non-denominational, started in Georgia in 1994 after 34 families got together to buy food in bulk. The program is now active in 17 states, according to the program’s web site.
A sample menu on the Web site describes an average box of food the program sells for $25. A sample box would contain: a package of chicken nuggets, four hamburger steaks, four pork chops, a pound and a half of bacon, a dozen eggs, two pounds of French fries, five bagels, two pounds of onions, four apples, five bananas and a pie.
Meat specials are offered monthly at an additional cost.
Portales volunteer Beau Lamb carried boxes of food out to purchasers’ cars Saturday. He said he heard “It’s such a blessing,” from at least four of those who bought food from the program Saturday.
“People were saying that they didn’t know it was going to be so much food (for $25),” he said.
The March menu is out and anyone can sign up for the March food boxes March 5 and March 12 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the main building of First Baptist Church and from 4-7 p.m. in the church’s fellowship hall. Boxes must be purchased with cash or food stamps.
Chicken breasts and beef patties are a couple of the items on the March menu. The March food boxes will be distributed March 25. Call 309-5926 or 276-8768 the Wednesday before the distribution date to find out distribution times.
The Angel Food Ministries web site is www.angelfoodministries.com