When she returned home from a week away, Cris Anderson found an unexpected and most unwelcomed email in her inbox. The head of a local Angel Food distribution ministry chartered through McDonald Memorial Baptist Church in Orange was informed the national food distribution ministry was immediately shutting down giving no specific details or warning to their affiliates that depended on them for food acquisition and delivery.

“ It shocked me terribly. There was no warning. I had no clue. I read all emails I got from them when they came in but there was no hint of this,” Cris said, who has, for the past four and a half years met the monthly quotas and fulfillment of orders required to be a part of the program. “I didn’t set up the program at our church, it was a Missions minister, but I have been running it,” Cris explains.

The Angel Food Ministry has been a national food distribution organization that was dedicated to bring wholesome, high quality foods to people at low cost. Running since 1994, there were no qualifying specifics required to get to participate in the program. All anyone was required to do was to pay from $40 to $50 and place their order. In return they would receive a box (or boxes) of high quality foods that would have retailed at twice what they paid. Food stamps were even a pay option.

In the beginning weeks of September, Angel Foods ceased its operations and let go all of its employees, without warning. Their website states, “Angel Food has not been immune from the same economic and market conditions.” They go on to explain that there is work being done to refund money paid for the September shipment.

Outside this shroud of mystery are thousands of distribution points left with unfulfilled orders, but even more to the point, people who are expecting and needing the food. Locally, Cris worries about the core group of citizens she has built relationships with our the last four and a half years that were consistent purchasers in the program that depended on the quantity of food they got for their dollar.

“Its really sad. I still want to call these people and check on them.”

She explained that they were in the program as a ministry, not just a center to shove a box of food in the hands of someone and send them on their way.

“We talked to them, got to know them and where they were in life. Got to know their stories,” she said.

With the end of the program Cris isn’t sure about a lot of things. Why the program shut down, if it will restructure and reopen, why more people didn’t participate in the buying plan and what to do now are all unanswered questions.

“This is who I have been for over four years. I am not sure what to do,” states Cris, who has developed a bond with some of the food recipients.

She explained that there are those who are trying fill the gap, but it is in infancy of planning.

Through her relationships with other distributors, she has knowledge of and communication with a Houston individual that formerly worked with the Angel Food company and has been trying to structure something similar for Houston and its close neighbors.

In hindsight, Cris can see the demise of the institution didn’t come as quickly as it appears.

She recalls seeing a variety of changes over four years that could have had a downsizing or overloading effect on the mission. Though the changes were most likely meant to better the overall plan, they, subsequently, caused the directors to overreach.

“I think they got too much diversity in the product,” she said.

She went on to explain that they started out with people being able to order one large box of food. The menu items bought would come in separate containers and the volunteers at distribution site would separate them into the individual’s order.

The next change was the orders came in pre-filled boxes ready to go except for the frozen items which would then be added to the box at distribution. By the end, the company offered specialty boxes, snack boxes, meat boxes, fruit boxes and other items causing packaging and confusion. Deliver times changed, frozen foods were ‘less’ frozen sometime thawing. It cued a problem but nothing screamed of closing operations.

“I am not sure if they will come back. Restructuring takes time and money. It always baffled me as to why more people didn’t buy the foods. There was no need to qualify but I think people thought they had to. The wealthiest man in town could have purchased as many boxes as he wanted and it was all great foods.”

When asked what’s next, Cris isn’t sure. “I am kind of lost now. I hope they can come back. Our church loves outreach. All of this kind of has a trickle down effect. We earned a dollar on each box we sold and that money went toward our Christmas food drive. Two hundred or more people have come and gone from our program over the years but I worry about the few. There won’t be same kind of funds for the Christmas boxes this year.”