An investigation of Georgia-based Angel Food Ministries by the IRS and the FBI is not denting demand for its services.
"We have seen increases over the years," said Martha Kenemer, an Angel Food volunteer for six years at Trinity United Methodist Church in Dalton, Ga. "There are now more than ever due to the economy."
Angel Food officals vow deliveries will continue, even though federal agents in February raided the office in Monroe, Ga.
Founders Joe and Linda Wingo are under criminal investigation and subject to a civil suit filed by two former board members regarding alleged financial improprieties.
They started Angel Food in 1994 to deliver quality food at low cost to 34 families. Today it's a 40-state network that distributed nearly 6 million boxes of food in 2008.
"Our numbers for 2009 have been steadily rising," ministry spokesman Juda Engelmayer said. "February's 530,000 boxes was up 20 percent from January. In March, the 560,000 boxes was "our second highest month ever, and 20 percent more than March 2008."
Those $40 "boxes" contain enough meats, vegetables, eggs, milk and other staples to feed a family of four for about a week - priced at half what they'd cost at a grocery, he said.
Angel Food is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but with ministry aspects such as using the food program at host sites to boost church development and outreach, Mr. Engelmayer said. It provides assistance, not handouts, he said, and sales last year topped $146 million.
"People don't want to stand in bread lines," he said.
More than 20 area churches participate in distributions, and there are no restrictions on who can order Angel Food.
"We even have people that buy boxes just to give away," said Monda Wooten, who helps with Angel Food in Trenton, Ga.
Distribution sites keep $1 for each box they handle, but supporters say the success has come from a goal of benevolence rather than monetary gain.
"I love the idea of helping the community," Mrs. Wooten said. "We've been doing this for three months, and I can tell you it is doubling each month."
Woodlawn Baptist Church on Sand Mountain had been distributing 30 to 40 boxes a month, but now 200 Dade County boxes are given out each month since Mrs. Wooten offered to let people place and pick up orders at her business near the courthouse in Trenton.
"You'd think I was doing tremendous buisiness on Saturday morning with the number waiting to pick up their orders," she said.
It's been a definite help since the county's largest employer, Shaw Industries, shuttered its spinning plant here late in 2008.
That's the trend across the country, Mr. Engelmayer said.
"The need for good food and great prices is rising, and we are prepared to meet those needs for everyone and anyone who asks," he said.