COLUMBIA — One Saturday per month, a semi-truck pulls into the parking lot of Broadway Christian Church early in the morning. Twenty or so volunteers work quickly to unload meats, pastas, eggs, fresh fruits and frozen vegetables.
Later, they will dispatch this food to five locations around Boone County, where an estimated 150 to 200 families will come collect supplies.
Interested in using the Angel Food program?
• Menus and order forms are available at each church, or they can be requested by phone at *445-5391. Orders can also be placed online.
• For a list of local host churches, online order sites and a sample menu, go to angelfoodministries.com.
This is Angel Food, a national non-denominational ministry that provides low-cost grocery options for its users. For $30, participants can buy a box of food that will provide 28 meals; one meal per day for a family of four for one 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,’” said Jamie Kochert, coordinator and user of the program at Fairview United Methodist Church. “Columbia is absolutely magnificent when it comes to meeting great need in the community.”
But Kochert worries that many available programs have strict income guidelines that many people who work hard but still feel financially strained don’t meet.
“Our users really run the gamut,” Kochert said. “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 to the program in 2006, after Kochert’s daughter, a single parent, described the program to her.
“I was very skeptical, quite honestly,” Kochert said. “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 said she quickly realized the benefit this program could have for her own community and approached Fairview United Methodist Church’s leadership about becoming a host site.
“Angel Food is basically a big co-op,” Kochert said. “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.
Once the supplies reach the host churches, additional volunteers unload the food again and sort it categorically. When users arrive, they are greeted by a volunteer who checks their order and then assists them in picking up each item on their list.
“It’s the quickest grocery shopping you’ll ever do,” Kochert said, 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.
Kochert said 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,” she said. “I can’t wait to see all the people I’ve met, to see what’s new. It feels like family.”
She recalled 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 said. “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.”