Charity's Food Distribution Up Amid Investigation

The Georgia-based food charity that is being investigated by federal authorities reported that demand for its services is up from previous months.

Angel Food Ministries said on Tuesday that the distribution of its low-cost food boxes this month was the sixth largest in the organization's history, up 63 percent from the same month last year. Compared to last month, the distribution total was up 20 percent.

The charity, which donates $1 back to church hosts for every box sold, was able to give $530,000 back into local communities and churches this month.

Pastor Joe Wingo, CEO and founder of AFM, said the milestone distribution made the ministry proud but sad at the same time.

"Proud to have the faith of so many people, proud to be able to help so many people get proper nutrition and proteins into their diets, but saddened that the need is so vast and growing."

The report comes one week after officials from the FBI and IRS searched the AFM headquarters in Monroe, declining to offer a reason for the investigation.

In response, the charity said in a statement that it believes the investigation is "of an individual or individuals connected to the organization, and not regarding the ministry itself, its service to the public or its host sites in any way."

AFM has maintained that the investigation would not affect deliveries of Angel Food grocery boxes to host churches.

The distribution numbers for February show the ministry's undeterred commitment to providing affordable groceries, according to Wingo.

"At the same time we are feeding so many, we also know that the news of events last week at our offices have raised concerns that Angel Food Ministries' mission may be hampered," he said.

"These order totals show that the needs people are facing as a result of the economy far exceeds the best efforts to stop us from reaching out, and we will always put food on the tables of everyone who asks for it."

Angel Food Ministries has not commented on which "individual" linked to the group are the subject of the probe. But tax documents filed by Angel Food Ministries to the IRS suggest the people of interest may include Pastor Wingo and his family members.

In 2005, Wingo was paid a salary of $69,598. The next year, his compensation dramatically soared to $588,529. Similar spikes in salary amounts were reported for his wife and two sons during the same period.

Watchdogs of Christian charities have pointed out that his salary for 2006 is unusually higher than the salaries of CEOs from non-profits that run on similar annual budgets.

Established by Wingo and his wife, Linda, in 1994, AFM helps feed over 300,000 families each year through discounted groceries that are distributed at local churches in 39 states. The standard food box costs $30 each but contains twice the value in food.

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