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Published: Wednesday, 10/22/2008

Discount food centers switch to new provider

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A new service offering food at discounted prices has moved into the area.

Great Food for All, has been adopted by the Maumee Senior Center, Freedom Point Church in Monclova Township, and CedarCreek Church in Perrysburg Township.

The basic idea of providing grocery relief for households is nothing new. The senior center and churches had been doing so through the nondenominational Angel Food Ministries.

But all three have switched to Great Food for All, which was started and is run by a pastor in Newton Falls, Ohio.

The Rev. Dane Price oversaw Angel Food Ministries in Ohio before setting out on his own. "I think we have a better quality of food," he said.

The senior center has been using the service since August, according to Stefanie Woolford, its executive director.

"The food quality, I would say, is better. We're really happy with it. We ordered a couple of boxes from Angel Food ourselves and a lot of the stuff we never ate," she explained.

Angel Food Ministries was "incredibly helpful," in getting low-cost food to people, but developed some operational problems, said Missy Moran, who oversees the program at Freedom Point Church.

"Over time we noticed that the food quality had gone down and there were some issues with the food not getting to the right drop-off points," she said. "Now,

we notice the dependability of the trucks - they're right on time. And the food quality is better. It's an incredible value."

Bill Trout, outreach minister at CedarCreek Church, said Great Food for All's delivery and packaging were superior.

"You're able to service the customers quicker and with less frustration. I can't say there is a definitive difference in food quality. Both offer a great value. The fact that both take food stamps is a real benefit to the community."

Judah Engelmayer, a spokesman for Angel Food Ministries, said the loss of the northwest Ohio "host sites" is not an indication of widespread dissatisfaction with his program. September was a record month for Angel Food, Mr. Engelmayer said, with 600,000 orders filled.

"We're gearing up for a bigger month in October. There's no weakening in demand. With current financial conditions, there's more of a need than ever," he said by phone from Israel, where he was traveling.

Both services operate in essentially the same way. There are no income or residency requirements.

"If you eat, you qualify," Mr. Price said of his service. "You can cut your food budget in half. It's not for the poor. We have doctors and attorneys using this every month. And the food is all top quality."

In the Great Food for All program, each month a basic food box containing $50 to $80 worth of items can be bought for $30. The order is placed the month before, and payment can be made with cash, food stamps, MasterCard, Visa, or a money order.

There are also several "value packs" available that must be bought with at least one basic food box. The exception to this is the senior meal value pack that can be bought without the purchase of a basic box.

The November basic food box includes steaks, chicken wings and thighs, ham, cut corn, French fries, fish fillets, sausage, hash browns, peas and carrots, and spinach.

The value packs also include a $25 Thanksgiving box with enough turkey and trimmings to feed six to eight people. "We thought this was great for families that don't have the money to pay for a full Thanksgiving meal," Ms. Woolford said.

Great Food for All is a break-even operation for everyone involved that depends on volunteers to hold costs down. Mr. Price said that unlike the food from Angel Food Ministries, his supplies don't have to be reboxed when they arrive at their host sites. This reduces labor requirements. The food is all set to be picked up in containers with handles,

Mr. Price said he buys directly from food companies and has the purchases sent to a company in Georgia that repacks it.

Great Food for All also rebates the host sites twice as much as Angel Food Ministries did: $2 for every basic box sold and $1 for every special pack.

"This will help cover the cost of fuel they use to pick up the food," Mr. Price said. "The host sites depend on volunteers, but they still have expenses."

Mr. Price said his service has 140 host sites in Ohio, eight to 10 in West Virginia, and 10 to 15 in Pennsylvania. "We grow by 20 to 25 host sites per month," he said.



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