Angel Food Ministries preserves recipients’ dignity |

Angel Food Ministries preserves recipients’ dignity

In today’s economy, nearly everyone is trying to save money. North Park Church in McCandless is helping cut the cost of groceries as a host site for Angel Food Ministries, a national nonprofit, nondenominational organization.

“Getting free things can be very demeaning, but paying some kind of fee preserves dignity,” said Bruce Allison of Harmony, who coordinates the church’s effort. “And it’s food that you would get in the grocery store; it’s not secondhand food.”

About 300 people from the community have used Angel Food since the church became a host site four years ago, Allison said. The church is one of 22 Angel Food Ministries sites in Allegheny County.

Unlike food banks, Angel Food does not put limitations on who can use the service. Orders may be placed in person at the church and paid for with cash or food stamps or placed through the Angel Food website with a credit card.

Angel Food offers several different kinds of food boxes, including a signature box with 18 items, including frozen meats, vegetables, eggs, a box of milk and some kind of dessert.

That particular box is designed to feed a family of four for one week and costs just $31, said Julie Halyama, 42, of McCandless, a church member.

“If you were to price all of that out at Giant Eagle, it would probably be close to twice as much,” Halyama said.

Based in Georgia, Angel Food buys food in bulk and ships food once a month to locations around the country.

Volunteers from North Park Church drive to McKeesport once a month to pick up orders and bring them to the church for distribution.

Angel Food also offers specialty boxes of food, such as nutritionally balanced convenience meals that are ideal for senior citizens. Fruit and vegetable boxes, after-school snack boxes and boxes for holiday meals are available. Halyama said the church usually takes 15 to 20 orders per month.

“Bottom line, it’s a great bargain,” Halyama said. “People use it for different reasons. We have a few customers who are just trying to save money and pay off bills.”

Dena Masterino, 40, of McCandless, said she and her husband began buying groceries from Angel Food to save money in order to pay off credit card debt.

“It’s such a great value and I don’t think a lot of people know about it,” Masterino said. “I don’t know that many people in this economy who couldn’t use saving a few bucks.”

Many other churches participate in the program, but North Park Church is the only one in the North Hills, Allison said.

“It’s a pretty simple program that has a unique twist where you pay money for it,” Allison said. “But as a church, it’s one way to get to know folks and see if they need anything else.”

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