PASCO — Heather Pendleton of Pasco has a way families can cut their food bills in half.
The member of Pasco Church of the Nazarene is the local director for Angel Food Ministries, a national program that started in the Tri-Cities in November.
Angel Food Ministries offers food at a discounted price to families across the nation. But unlike most food assistance programs, those using this one don't need to meet poverty guidelines.
The program accepts food stamps, but Bridget Benn, co-pastor at Kennewick Church of the Nazarene, said it was created to help middle-class families who might be struggling. That's why there are no income restrictions and anyone qualifies.
All a family has to do to receive help is to purchase the food at a host site, such as the Pasco and Kennewick churches, or on the national ministry's website.
It was pure coincidence that the two Nazarene churches joined the ministry at the same time.
Pendleton said she stumbled across the program online when she was searching for somewhere that she and her daughter, Havana, 7, could volunteer. After reading about the nondenominational ministry, she decided it was something the Tri-Cities needed and presented it to church officials.
The ministry purchases food in bulk directly from distributors and is able to offer name-brand food at a fraction of the retail price.
Pasco Church of the Nazarene decided to sponsor the program locally, and along with the Kennewick Church of the Nazarene, became the first churches in Eastern Washington to offer the ministry.
New to Tri-Cities
Although Angel Food Ministries is new to the Tri-Cities, Benn said it was an established ministry in Oklahoma City, where her family lived before moving to the Tri-Cities a year ago. She was surprised to find it was uncommon in Washington state.
Pasco Church of the Nazarene Pastor Jim Millard said the food arrives once a month, and those who have ordered the boxes come and pick them up from the Pasco or Kennewick churches that same day.
Tri-Citians ordered 82 boxes from the ministry in December, and the families picked up those boxes at the churches Saturday.
Karen Walker of Kennewick, said Angel Food Ministries has helped her and her husband John tremendously. As senior citizens, she said, they are on a fixed income, and while food prices have gone up, their Social Security checks haven't.
One box of food lasted the couple two weeks, Walker said. The Pasco Church of the Nazarene member said she was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food and the amount.
She already has recommended the program to their daughter and granddaughter, who live in Vancouver, and said they also have started using their local branch of Angel Food Ministries.
The ministry provides a menu for each month that lists each box that will be available and the contents, Pendleton said. Contents of the boxes change each month.
For example, one of the boxes available in January includes a beef roast, chicken breasts, breaded chicken pieces, meatballs, minestrone soup, ground beef, Italian sausage, squash, peas and carrots, waffle fries, rice & vermicelli mix, pasta and sauce, dried beans, oatmeals, milk and eggs. Angel Food's website says the box, which sells for $31, will feed a family of four for about a week.
Raquel Martinez of Pasco said she likes how the boxes come with recipes for the food they get. More recipes for the food items in the boxes also are available on the charity's website.
Martinez said she priced the food in the box that her family of four purchased and estimates they received double the value.
"It really does save you a lot of money," she said.
Martinez said she's recommended Angel Food to the foster families she works with, and three of them already have decided to use it.
Pendleton said the Pasco church had one family come in and order food using food stamps.
"They were ecstatic," she said, because they could get more for their food stamps.
Pendleton's family has tried the box of allergen-free food. Havana can't eat dairy products because she has Crohn's disease, a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive tract.
The family of five used Angel Food boxes for most of their food in November, only purchasing a few miscellaneous items at the grocery store, Pendleton said.
Benn said the ministry also offers a box of prepackaged meals that can be very useful for seniors. There also is food for diabetics, she said.
Reducded grocery bill
Malisa Smith of Pasco, a member of Pasco Church of the Nazarene, said the program has reduced her grocery bill from about $100 a week to $30 to $50 per week. She said her family of four used the saved money toward Christmas presents.
Smith, who also volunteers for the ministry, said the two boxes of food her family purchased lasted the entire month. Her family ate Angel Food items about four nights a week during the month.
One regular-sized box can feed a family for a week or one person for a month, Pendleton said.
The Kennewick and Pasco churches are trying to spread the word about the new ministry. The Tri-City area must have at least 400 boxes ordered in February to break even on shipping, Pendleton said. Otherwise, the churches will have to pay the difference.
The churches had to pay a $50 fee to sign up for Angel Food ministries, and provide volunteers to manage the program locally. Angel Food Ministries contributes $1 per food box to host churches' benevolence fund.
So far, the Pasco and Kennewick Nazarene churches are the only two to play host to Angel Food Ministries, but Millard said they hope other churches will join.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org