A local church is selling boxes of groceries, which it gets from a national organization devoted to food relief, at affordable prices.

A local church is selling boxes of groceries, which it gets from a national organization devoted to food relief, at affordable prices.

The Amlin United Methodist Church, 5541 Cosgray Road in Dublin, now works with Angel Food Ministries to sell and distribute the boxes of food on a monthly basis.

"In December, we had 38 boxes ordered. January, we went up to 56," said Mary Vulic, host site director for Amlin UMC.

On Saturday morning (Feb. 20), a semi from Angel Food's Monroe, Ga., warehouse will drop off the food for orders that were placed up until Feb. 15. Vulic said the food comes in two types of boxes: already pre-packed special boxes, and the Signature Boxes, which requires assembly by volunteers.

"The Signature Box is $30 and is designed to feed a family of four for a week," Vulic said.

It includes vegetables, milk (that doesn't require refrigeration until it's opened), meat, eggs, dessert, and cereal from major food companies like Borden, ConAgra and Tyson.

"I will say this: the food quality is really high and very little of it is prepared, so I would guess it's really healthy," Vulic said.

The special boxes are more like TV dinners and are designed for seniors to heat in any type of oven. There are also seafood and produce boxes. The menus change monthly.

Vulic said the Amlin church was looking for a way to help families in Hilliard and Dublin during the economic downturn, and she had heard of Angel Food Ministries, which has fed 22 million people since it was formed as a food cooperative in 1994.

"This seemed like a good fit that we could grow into," Vulic said. "It fits our building and our goals at this time. They've been a very good operation where we can help people in our community and let them know we are doing it out of a Christian mission."

Vulic said she shadowed Shepherd's Voice Ministry in Powell last spring, and the Amlin UMC is partnered with them through the month.

"In March, we should be on our own," she said.

"I did training with them back in October or November and they've been taking orders ever since," said Pastor Jamie Howell, minister of outreach in northern Ohio for Angel Food Ministries. "When we have a new site, we partner them with one of our existing sites for at least their first few months of operation.

"Assuming they're generating enough orders and they feel they're ready, we go ahead and let them work independently instead of being partnered. They've been doing fine."

Spokesman Juda Engelmayer said Angel Food's 800 trucks go to a church network of 6,000 host sites in 44 states monthly. Howell said he covers 58 of Ohio's counties with more than 150 host sites, including 14 in Franklin County. He said many of his customers are young, working-class families.

With that kind of buying power, "We use bulk sales to negotiate the best prices," Engelmayer said. The food bears the Angel Food label, which also helps lower the prices to 40- to 50-percent off retail.

Angel Food Ministries accepts payment by food stamps, cash and credit/debit cards.

Angel Food, which employs 200 people, is nonprofit and non-denominational. Customers do not have to be members of the host site church to purchase from them.

"We use the food service as a way of helping churches ministering," Engelmayer said. "It creates a sense of community even with people who won't come back for a church service. They find the church a friendly place to go where people unload the food off the truck, pack it for them and bring it to their car.

"While we're an evangelical mission, we don't push people and say you need to pray one way to get food to eat."

"Anybody who wants to purchase the food is welcome to do so," Howell said. "That's one of the great things about the ministry: It's for anyone at all who is just looking to save money on their groceries and stretch their food dollars."

For more information, call 1-888-819-3745 or (614) 771-1904 (Amlin UMC).